How to make restoration projects climate smart: An example from the Black River

This is one restoration project that’s here to stay.

When project partners began work to restore a section of the Lower Black River in Lorain, Ohio, they considered the potential impacts of climate change.

Scientists expect annual precipitation to increase 10 percent – with much of the added precipitation falling in the winter. Air temperatures are expected to increase about 3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years. And the maximum temperatures in the river water are expected to increase to 89 degrees Fahrenheit, up from 82 degrees today.

Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation, participated in making the project climate smart. That meant designing fish shelves at different grades to provide refuge for fish when the water levels rise. In creating natural features, planners may use larger boulders that can withstand the greater flows of river water in the future. Instead of planting white pine trees – popular in many restoration projects – contractors will plant a species of tree that can thrive in a warming world.

Addressing climate change in restoration work can feel overwhelming, said Inkley, “but it doesn’t have to be.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided money for the National Wildlife Federation to create a climate smart restoration guide. As part of that work, the Black River restoration project received a climate assessment, which examined how climate change might impact the goals of the project and provided recommendations that were incorporated.

“It didn’t cost more to do that,” said Kristen Risch, senior restoration specialist for Coldwater Consulting, LLC of Columbus, Ohio, which designed and oversaw implementation of the restoration project. And making the project climate smart assures that it will be money well spent.

The $10 million project tapped a variety of funds, including stimulus funding and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.

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Melinda Koslow, Climate Adaptation Regional Campaign Manager with the National Wildlife Federation on the Black River.
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