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Legislation targets Ohio River change

Money is headed into the Tri-State to make ecosystem improvements along the Ohio River.

Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Money is headed into the Tri-State to make ecosystem improvements along the Ohio River.

In his remaining days in office, President Bill Clinton signed a bill that will funnel millions of dollars in federal money along the Ohio River for restoration projects – the Water Resources Development Act.

The Ohio River Ecosystem Restoration program, included in the funding, is a $308 million initiative designed to restore and protect river wildlife along the main stem of the Ohio River, said Pete Dodgion, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ecologist in Huntington, W.Va.

The measure was strongly supported by the Ohio River delegation and has the support of environmentalists and navigation interests alike, he said.

"This a comprehensive program in place to restore the Ohio River," Dodgion said. "We have over 250 projects that have been identified to restore, protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. But, the individual programs will be selected after the initial program is implemented."

The funding of the ORER program authorizes the Corps of Engineers to restore, protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat, he added.

He said the restoration will include creating/revitalizing side channels, islands, sandbars, gravel spawning substrate and floodplain wetlands to aid fish and wildlife species in the river.

"I know there are some embayments along the Ohio in the Tri-State that will probably be high on the priority list," Dodgion said. "There are two projects that are high on priority to the State of Ohio in Portsmouth. They will involve extensive restoration around the mouth of the Scioto River."

The exact amount of federal dollars that trickle into the Tri-State will depend on individual group interests, he said.

"We will be going to local corporations and environmental groups to educate them on what they can do with this program," he said. "Sen. George Voinovich was very instrumental in structuring this program in such a way that individual companies and municipalities can use matching funds or the equivalent for restoration programs."

He said any project pursued in the program will be 65 percent funded by federal dollars, with the remaining 35 percent provided by the local sponsor of the restoration project.

"It is possible for people to participate with in-kind services," he said. "If a municipality or group doesn’t necessarily have the matching 35 percent but can provide the equivalent of manpower or equipment for the project, that would be considered."

And the Corps of Engineers encourages groups to step forward with ideas to restore the river.

"If someone has an idea, as so long as it’s ecosystem restoration, it could possibly receive funding," Dodgion said. "The Ohio has in a round-about way been neglected until recently, and we should take advantage of that opportunity."