Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cleaning the Waterways of Ohio by Lauren Campbell Kong

It is amazing to me how diverse environmental activism is in Cincinnati. The topics are so different from that of Indiana; as I get situated in the Queen City I am starting to see different environmental issues plaguing the area and it has been quite the learning experience.

Located on the Ohio River, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have a huge clean water presence; Cincinnati actually leads the country in clean water technology and the tri-state area has more water patents per capita than any other area of the United States. The focus on how to approach these issues is much different than Indiana and their ongoing battle with the White River, the most polluted river in central Indiana. It has been refreshing to see a community interested in and involved with keeping the Ohio River clean. Granted it is the most polluted river in the country but the fact that it is so large and spans 5 coal states lends itself to that, regardless, people are educated on the topic and motivated to make a change. I’m sure this is correlated with the long history and culture of the Ohio River, providing commerce when the city was first settled, in addition to transportation for many people. Environmental landmarks influence our culture and thus how we perceive the environment, influencing what environmental concerns we address. People who live near bodies of water tend to be more environmentally aware of water issues, i.e. water pollution. They typically support such efforts to conserve, protect, and restore watersheds, rivers, lakes, and oceans more than people who do not grow up near such beautiful backdrops of water.

Living near the large Ohio river is new to me. I grew up with a small creek flowing next to our house, it was fed by an underwater spring and small enough to jump across in two bounds. It was never filled with trash nor did I ever throw anything in it myself, aside from my sister while we were playing. It was clean enough to drink from if we chose, however my mother was never happy about it claiming we could be ingesting dirty parasites. Living here,where clean water culture is alive and well, I have come to appreciate the large river and find myself in awe of the industry located on the it; the barges pushing large containers filled with different materials sends a surge of curiosity through my veins. How long have these companies been using the river to transport goods? How far are they going? Where do they come from? Cincinnati was settled in the late 1700's so I know that commerce has been traveling through those waters for quite some time. It is a shame that it is now filled with Styrofoam cups and cigarette butts instead of fishermen and diverse, healthy aquatic life.

One afternoon while walking Moe down by the river I was disgusted with all the trash piling up along the banks. This motivated me to look into a group for which I could volunteer, hopefully helping pick up some of the trash. After all, it is very important for me to be a contributing member of this community and I don't feel I can complain about the problem if I don't contribute to the solution. So, I joined the Ohio River Foundation (ORF) and found that they were doing some amazing things for the Ohio River. In addition to providing volunteer opportunities to pick up river trash and debris, they help provide the local population with statistics about pollution in the river; offering different ways that citizens can make a difference. They strive to protect and restore the Ohio back to its unpolluted state and this is done through community outreach and collaboration with other environmental organizations. They recently were granted $100,000.00 to help restore Beaver Creek; a small creek located near the Licking River both of which feed into the Ohio. A small, yet significant creek that, if not cleaned up and and restored, will add even more pollution into the Ohio. According the the ORF:
This project will involve removal of a 200’ long low-water crossing and installing a bridge. This action will reconnect the lower 4.5 mile section to the upper reaches of Beaver Creek, restoring natural variability in creek flows and reconnecting fragmented river habitat to allow access to historic spawning and nursery grounds, and improving fish passage and mussel habitat and migration. Also, the road was susceptible to flooding, creating a dangerous hazard for motorists.
This project, in conjunction with Hamilton Co. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, allows for a collaborative and holistic approach to be taken towards restoration. The wildlife, the water, and the residents all have a stake in this grant, lending to an appropriate solution. Addressing the small details, like Beaver creek, help larger bodies of water like the Ohio river stay clean and rebound faster from environmental degradation. This is a great example of how the small details affect the larger picture.

It is projects like this that excite me about living in such a vibrant, diverse, and motivated community. When everyone has a passion and they get to use that passion for the betterment of our people, planet, and profit, sustainability wins and we, as residents on this planet, win too. While, getting the Ohio river back to the pristine state it was once in is nearly impossible, that doesn't mean that residents cannot try. I admire their efforts and know they will pay off, not only for myself and our community but for generations to come. 

No comments:

Post a Comment