Restored creek carries less sediment

into Lake Erie

Reducing storm water runoff into an urban stream restored the waterway and kept tons of sediment from reaching Lake Erie.

Description

Cascade Creek is a tributary of Lake Erie that drains a nine-square mile watershed on the west side of Erie, Pa. The watershed is heavily urbanized, and much of its landscape has been paved. As a result, rain showers and periods of snowmelt often send torrents of water down the creek, which forces it to rise out of its channel and cause extreme erosion along its banks. The floods deposit excessive sediment, downed trees and other debris in a wetland near the mouth of the creek, where it flows into Presque Isle Bay. The flooding also stripped the creek banks of native vegetation that provided habitat for wildlife. Most of the industries that once lined the creek have closed, but the waterway continues to be impaired by polluted storm water runoff. Over the years, several piecemeal attempts to reduce flooding and erosion in the creek met with limited success. That prompted the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority to secure funds for a comprehensive study of the creek and its floodplain. The study was the first step toward a holistic attempt to restore the creek and reduce the flow of excess sediment and debris into Presque Isle Bay — a recreational haven for boaters, anglers and beachgoers. Armed with studies and computer models of how best to manage storm water runoff in the area, the Eric County Conservation District and Pennsylvania Sea Grant spearheaded a three-phase project to reduce flooding and erosion in the creek, as well as restore vegetation and create new wildlife habitat along the creek.  The entire project restored 1,900 linear feet of the creek, which reduced the amount of sediment washing into Lake Erie’s Presque Isle Bay by 222 tons annually.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Excessive storm water runoff
  • Urban flooding
  • Severe erosion
  • Polluted sediment runoff
  • Lack of wildlife habitat
  • Invasive plants

CASCADE CREEK RESTORATION

A stream running through some grassy areas.

Small streams, like the one pictured above, can erode large amounts of land and contribute to pollution in the Great Lakes if the streambanks are not planted with vegetation. Credit: Conservation Resource Alliance.

Results and Accomplishments

The projects restored 1,900 linear feet of the creek, reduced the amount of sediment flowing into Presque Isle Bay by 222 tons annually, and created new wildlife habitat.