Wetlands are part of the foundation of our nation’s water resources and are vital to the health of waterways and communities that are downstream. Wetlands are often found alongside waterways and in flood plains.
However, some wetlands have no apparent connection to rivers or lakes, but have critical groundwater connections. Wetlands feed downstream waters, trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollutants, and provide fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands include swamps, marshes and bogs. Wetlands vary widely because of differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors. Ohio has lost approximately 90% of its original wetland acreage through degradation or destruction due to drainage, infill or other modifications.1
Importance and Value
Federal Wetland Regulation: Section 404 of the Clean Water Act”>Wetlands are so critical to the function of natural water flow and for habitat that they were legally protected at the federal level in 1972 with section 404 of the Clean Water Act.2 Wetlands are categorized by the State based on their habitat quality and function for flood retention and nutrient removal; and thus have differing levels of protection. From lowest to highest quality; Category 1 wetlands are often isolated and disturbed and are not considered for restoration, Category 2 are of medium quality which hold potential for restoration, and Category 3 wetlands are the highest quality; thus protected from development and impacts except in cases of public need as defined in the Ohio Administrative Code.
- Wetlands can slow runoff water, minimizing the frequency at which streams and rivers reach catastrophic flood levels.
- Wetlands function as a sponge & filter. They capture & hold water during storms, then release water during dry times.
- A community with healthy wetlands is therefore more resilient to both floods and droughts
- Natural wetlands function better than engineered ones
- Wetlands are great recreational amenities as well as an economic driver for activities such as canoeing, hunting, fishing, or exploring and enjoying nature.
- Wetlands provide diverse habitat.
Recommendations for Communities and Land Owners
- Restrict building on or in wetlands, except for sensitively designed access features such as boardwalks.
- Expand wetlands in order to increase stormwater retention capacity for the area.
- Mitigate wetlands (creating a new wetland to replace one destroyed) within the same watershed in which the original watershed was located.
- Protect and buffer wetlands by adopting the strongest possible riparian zoning regulations
- Improve or restore category 2 or 3 wetlands to better perform valuable functions including filtering impurities from water and reducing stormwater flooding and shoreline erosion.
- Protect important natural functions through riparian and wetland setbacks.
- Utilize Low-Impact Development (LID) strategies. LID is a site design approach, which seeks to integrate functional design with pollution prevention measures to compensate for land development impacts on hydrology and water quality.
Resources for More Information
- Cuyahoga County Soil and Water Conservation District – works to conserve land and aquatic resources in a developed environment through stewardship, education, and technical assistance.
- Cuyahoga River Restoration – Cuyahoga River Restoration works to restore and protect the environmental quality of the Cuyahoga River, nearshore Lake Erie, and select Lake Erie tributary watersheds. It provides Cuyahoga River Restoration publications.
- Chagrin River Watershed Partnership – The Chagrin River Watershed Partners is a nonprofit organization serving communities and park systems impacted by the Chagrin River; as well as homeowners living in member communities.
- Ohio Wetlands Fact Sheet – Answers to frequently asked questions from the Ohio EPA.
- About Wetlands – a US EPA website that, includes pages that describes the what, why, and how of wetland.
- Wetlands Restoration, Creation and Enhancement – developed by the Interagency Workgroup on Wetland Restoration, this is a guide for the public, containing:
- Background on wetlands and restoration
- Information on project planning, implementation, and monitoring
- Lists of resources, contacts, and funding sources