The Army Corps’ recommended ecological plan aims to restore a floodplain wetland in the middle of a dense urban setting that contains significantly degraded riverbanks and depleted river habitat. The plans would improve aquatic habitat through new aquatic substrate and habitat features, remove invasive species, and re-grade existing high riverbanks to more natural banks restoring a portion of the riparian corridor. The public uses the North Shore study area daily for outdoor recreation, boating, public events and entertainment, and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail runs the length of the project site. The recommended restoration design reflects the necessity of habitat protection that is compatible with these recreational uses.
The report also highlights how a riparian restoration on the North Shore could improve water quality by capturing and naturally treating storm water runoff in the new wetland areas before it flows into the city’s combined sewer system. The combined sewer frequently overflows during rainfall of as little as one-tenth of an inch, causing untreated human waste, bacteria, trash, and debris to discharge directly into the rivers.
The Army Corps study was completed in partnership with Riverlife, the Pittsburgh nonprofit organization that works with property owners, elected officials, and community organizations to build Pittsburgh’s riverfront park system. The report concludes a 10-month-long study of the North Shore which included approximately 13 acres of heavily degraded aquatic and riverbank habitat along 4,000 feet of the right-descending bank of the Ohio River, extending from downstream of the West End Bridge in Chateau to upstream of the Carnegie Science Center in the City of Pittsburgh. Both private and publicly owned property is included in the area of study.
"The North Shore within the project study area is in need of an ecological restoration," Dr. Tomma Barnes, Pittsburgh District chief of Planning and Environment Branch said. "Due to the urban development that has happened at the headwaters of the Ohio River, much of the historic riparian habitat has been removed. The plan outlined in the report recommends specific improvements to the riverbankswhich will increase the natural habitat in the area, and that is priceless. We are basically putting a little piece of nature back into a very urbanized area for fish, birds, and other wildlife. "
"The partnership between the Corps and a local non-profit organization can leverage federal resources to improve the environment and the biodiversity of the river and the shoreline," Dr. Barnes said. "The North Shore is a destination for recreation, entertainment, and educational experiences, and the recommended habitat restoration will be an additional enhancement along one of the most vibrant areas along Pittsburgh's downtown riverfronts, said Vivien Li, Riverlife President and CEO. " Imagine being able to take your family or friends to the river's edge and to see wildlife growing and thriving right in the middle of a bustling city." The full report can be viewed at the Army Corps website at http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Planning,ProgramsProjectManagement/ProjectReviewPlans.aspx
Riverlife will hold an informational meeting open to the public at the Carnegie Science Center on Thursday, June 9 from 5:30-7:00 pm. The public is requested to comment about the Army Corps’ report through June 25. Comments can be submitted at the informational meeting or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org through July 5. Riverlife has convened property owners and stakeholders within the study area to discuss implementation of the restoration recommendations with existing and future redevelopment plans.
The North Shore aquatic ecosystem study was funded as a partnership between Riverlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with additional financial support from The Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Alcoa Foundation and The Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust.
About the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District’s 26,000-square miles include portions of western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio, western Maryland and southwestern New York. Our jurisdiction includes more than 328 miles of navigable waterways, 23 navigation locks and dams, 16 multi-purpose flood control reservoirs, 42 local flood protection projects and other projects to protect and enhance the Nation’s water resources, infrastructure and environment. http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Home.aspx.
Riverlife (formerly Riverlife Task Force) is a public-private partnership established in 1999 to guide and advocate for the redevelopment of Pittsburgh’s riverfronts. Riverlife works to reconnect Pittsburgh with its rivers by bringing recreation, ecological restoration and economic opportunity back to our waterfronts. www.riverlifegh.org