On October 8, 1998 the Black River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) and International Joint
Commission's Great Lakes Water Quality Board co-sponsored a public symposium in Lorain,
Ohio. The participants of the event were challenged by the symposium theme of "Protecting
What's Been Gained in the Black River." Over 125 decision-makers from governments at all
levels, industries, environmental groups, faculty and students from surrounding universities, and
concerned citizens gathered to:
- learn about the progress that has been made in the Black River watershed in recent years;
- share and celebrate successes; and
- provide advice on required future activities to protect and rehabilitate the Black River
This symposium was designed to be an action-oriented public meeting and to provide a forum for
the exchange of ideas pertaining to watershed management. The event began with research
presentations focusing on improvements in the river and what remains to be done in terms of
future action. Breakout sessions were used in the afternoon portion of the program to spur
interaction between Water Quality Board members, Black River RAP Coordinating Committee
members, key watershed stakeholders, and concerned citizens on specific issues related to the
protection and rehabilitation of the Black River watershed.
The Symposium was well received by all participants. Conclusions and recommendations from
the day's proceedings were compiled by the Symposium Steering Committee and include the
following (please consult the summaries of the afternoon breakout sessions for more detailed
discussion and recommendations):
- Substantial progress is being made in implementing the Black River RAP and restoring uses
throughout the watershed (e.g., progress toward elimination of liver tumors in the brown
bullhead population, improvements in sediment quality, etc.).
- However, much needs to be done to protect what's been gained and to further rehabilitate degraded areas in the watershed. Strategies are needed to address land use changes that
threaten aquatic life communities and habitat. The Black River RAP has identified
protection of the riparian corridor and urban sediment and erosion control programs as
especially urgent. Participants confirmed the importance of protecting and restoring riparian
corridors as a key factor in protecting what's been gained.
- The community-based process embodied in the Black River RAP has taken a leadership role
in developing and advancing efforts to protect the Black River and this process needs to be
sustained for the future.
- This community-based process requires the active involvement of informed citizens who are
ecologically literate and willing to act as stewards of the watershed in their own backyard.
- As substantial progress has been made in controlling point sources of pollution, more effort
now needs to be placed on addressing land use activities that contribute to nonpoint source
- Regulatory mechanisms should be considered to eliminate or reduce the nonpoint problems
associated with failing or poorly maintained home sewage disposal systems.
- Greater emphasis should be placed on addressing habitat components in land use planning,
local ordinances, zoning, etc.
- Participants recommended that, as a priority, the County enact an Urban Sediment Erosion
Control Program to address stormwater management issues of new development. The
efforts of the Lorain County Alliance to encourage an interjurisdictional approach to the
stormwater management problems are applauded and should continue to be supported by the
Black River RAP so that a comprehensive approach, that considers both water quantity
(flooding) and water quality issues at the watershed level, is pursued. There needs to be a
better understanding of how to deal with stormwater as it passes through one community to
- There is a need to more effectively engage the public in understanding the importance of and
support for long-term environmental monitoring. Citizens can have a direct role in this
effort, but this means that realistic goals for monitoring programs by citizen volunteers need
to be developed, goals that recognize what citizens can contribute practically. To achieve
this, effective volunteer training and data quality assurance procedures must be established.
- The Black River RAP should heighten its profile in the community so that the important
messages of the RAP program are more widely heard and acted upon.
- From a nonpoint source perspective, much of the "low hanging fruit" has been picked. Therefore, federal efforts through the Natural Resource Conservation Service should be
focused on "picking the next lowest hanging fruit" which means implementing a targeted
initiative at farmers who have not implemented best management practices (BMPs). Much
more needs to be done to get these local farmers to expand use of BMPs in order to meet our
collective goals of restoring and protecting all uses in the Black River watershed.
- Ohio EPA should continue to sustain the Black River RAP process. Ohio EPA, Ohio DNR,
and other state agencies should focus state funds on implementing high priority actions and
projects identified by the Black River RAP Coordinating Committee. Ohio EPA should
consider allowing Division of Environmental Financial Assistance funds to be used more
readily for RAPs.
- Participants further recommended that federal legislation is needed that recognizes and
supports the community-based approach to watershed planning and implementation.
- The recent study by Ohio DNR that evaluated the Black River's potential for Scenic River
status concluded that substantial portions of the riparian zone are in excellent condition, but
need a sustained focus effort to preserve them. The Black River RAP Coordinating
Committee should continue and expand its efforts to promote riparian protection at the
household, community, and watershed level.
- The International Joint Commission and its Great Lakes Water Quality Board must continue
to be champions for community-based RAP processes. The International Joint Commission
and the Great Lakes Water Quality Board are in a unique position to celebrate the progress
of RAPs and help sustain community-based RAP groups working to restore and sustain uses
in the Areas of Concern.
- Finally, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board should continue to convene public meetings
with RAP groups in Areas of Concern. Such meetings give the public an opportunity to
learn more about how local RAP efforts fit into the larger Great Lakes context. Further,
these public meetings give members of the Water Quality Board and RAP groups important
opportunities to meet, share, and learn from each other. This also provides a wonderful
community building project for local RAP groups.