October 23, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
45°F

County OKs plan for watershed district

MEDINA — County commissioners OK’d the balanced growth plan for the proposed Upper Chippewa Creek Watershed this week. It now goes before the Ohio Water Resource Council for its approval.

The Water Resource Council will vote June 22 on the plan, said Jeff van Loon, manager of the Medina County Soil and Water Conservation District.

All affected jurisdictions in the proposed watershed support the plan: commissioners; Medina city; the villages of Chippewa Lake, Gloria Glens and Westfield Center; and the townships of Lafayette, Montville, Guilford and Westfield.

The balanced growth initiative is twofold: economic health and water quality. While the watershed area includes highway districts ripe for development, it is also an environmentally sensitive area with floodplains, wetlands and forests, as well as three wellheads, van Loon said.

“You don’t want to adversely affect water resources, but you want development, jobs, taxes and everything else that goes
with it, so that’s what we try to look at,” van Loon said.

The plan was designed by 25 members of the Upper Chippewa Creek Watershed Planning Partnership working under a $77,120 grant from the Ohio Resources Council. They identified priority conservation, development and agricultural areas in the 90-page plan.

Participation in the watershed was voluntary. The watershed does not change local zoning, or change existing state and federal regulations.

While the areas prioritized for development, conservation and agriculture are nonbinding, van Loon said municipalities in the watershed are likely to receive state grants from the Ohio Department of Development and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In 2010, an estimated 11,463 people lived in the watershed, a 12 percent increase from 2000. About 3 percent of the watershed, or 10,302 acres, is developed, according to the plan.

Most areas prioritized for development were determined by existing commercial and industrial zoning. Other areas were identified as priority development because they were near the path of the county’s fiber optic project, under construction and expected to be complete by early 2012, van Loon said.

Areas that have sewer access or might in the future, those with tax abatements in place, and those 1,000 feet from a state or interstate highway also make sense for development, he said.

As for protecting natural resources, areas designated priority conservation were based primarily on wetlands, streams, floodplains and other environmentally sensitive areas. About 10 percent of the watershed’s area is designated parkland and recreational use.

The proposed watershed has 300 miles of streams, 800 acres of ponds and lakes, and 6,500 acres of wooded land. It is composed of two sub-basins of the Chippewa Creek and drains approximately 28,000 acres or 44 square miles in Medina County. All water in a watershed area drains to a common location.

If approved, the Upper Chippewa Creek Watershed would be the fifth in Ohio and the second in Medina County.

The Rocky River Watershed was approved in 2009 and water drains north toward Lake Erie. The Upper Chippewa Creek Watershed is below the transcontinental divide and water drains south toward the Ohio River.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.