By Pat Dwight and Pat Krebs, Friends of Sheldon Marsh co-chairs
It will be nearly five years when the Army Corps of Engineers closes the file on the dike and channel project dug in the waters of Sheldon Marsh, adjacent to the State Nature Preserve. In July of 2000, using an improper Corps Permit, a nursery began construction of the project to connect their business to the waters of Lake Erie. Because of the marsh’s exceptional wildlife habitat, and the rare, diverse and sensitive nature of the habitat, it is classified as a category 3 wetland, the highest wetland rating available. Due to its sensitive nature, all authorizing agencies (previously excluded from the permitting process) convened and stopped the progress on the dredge and fill activities in late July, 2000. The dike and channel (approximately 1500 feet long and 55 feet wide) have remained in place for the past five growing seasons as the issue was analyzed and argued. Permits were rescinded as issued in error; new permits were sought and consequently denied. Two Public Hearings took place with a great public outcry. State and Federal agencies and legislators participated in the comments. Environmental studies, hired consultants, agency statements, and our grassroots alerts and letters created masses of information and media coverage.
When the State of Ohio denied the coastal consistency and the 401 Water Quality Permit (the Permit required by the state to fill a wetland), the denials were appealed to the State and the Federal Department of Commerce. Friends of Sheldon Marsh (FOSM), with support from GLAHNF, retained counsel and became interveners in the appeals to support the OEPA’s denial of the 401 Permit. Only days before the court date, the appeal was dropped and later the Federal appeal was withdrawn. Seven months later the Army Corps issued an “Order to Restore” the area to its original condition; however the completion date for the restoration was another year away, December 31, 2004. We have now waited these additional twelve months, and the physical work of pushing the dike/berm back into the channel has, for the most part, been accomplished this past December 10, 2004. Pictures of the restoration work were taken Dec.15, 2004 show an opening left in the end of the channel area, which does not correspond with the ACE corrected restoration map. FOSM still questions this disparity, and awaits the comments from those in charge.The ACE has not yet closed the file so they can reassess the settling and plantings yet to be done this late spring or early summer. Please see the Friends of Sheldon Marsh website for the ACE remarks at www.sheldons marsh.org
Friends of Sheldon Marsh hopes that the full restoration to the original condition of the Sheldon Marsh wetlands will be completed, and that the natural functioning of this rare coastal wetland can repair itself after five years of disruption. If the proper permits and all interested State and Federal agencies, as well as the public, had been involved from the beginning the costs and results would have been different. Without the support of GLAHNF, FOSM’s grassroots outcry against this wetland destruction would have seen little success. This effort now offers a case from beginning through restoration to inspire others that, indeed, it can be done.