The mission of the Rocky River Watershed Council is to protect, restore, and perpetuate a healthy watershed through public education, watershed planning, communication, and cooperation among stakeholders.
It is the only organization dedicated solely to the protection and restoration of the Rocky River Watershed.
The partnership coalesced out of the concern of citizens and agencies for the conditions in the watershed. While the Rocky River is widely known as a recreational asset for northeast Ohio, owing in large part to the significant Cleveland Metroparks holdings, Ohio EPA monitoring and assessment in the 1990s confirmed what many stakeholders already knew – many parts of the watershed were in relatively poor condition. The initial watershed planning efforts were spearheaded by NOACA, which received an Ohio EPA planning grant in 2001 to develop a Watershed Action Plan. The process was strongly supported by Cuyahoga and Medina County SWCDs, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and Cleveland Metroparks, all of whom continue to support the partnership. A brief history follows:
2001 – The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) received a Section 319
planning grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to develop a Watershed Action Plan and form the Rocky River Watershed Council (RRWC).
2002 – RRWC was formed.
2003 – RRWC elected board members to the Council.
2003 – The Cuyahoga County Board of Health received a Section 319 implementation grant
from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to replace failing Home Sewage Treatment Systems and protect riparian corridors with conservation easements.
2003 – RRWC conducted its first watershed cleanup.
2003- RRWC held its first Watershed Festival.
2006 – OEPA and ODNR endorsed RRWC’s Watershed Action Plan.
2006 –Medina Soil and Water Conservation District received an Ohio-Lake Erie Commission
grant for the Balanced Growth Initiative. RRWC was a partner on the application for this grant.
2006 – Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District received a grant from ODNR for a
Watershed Coordinator to support the partnership and facilitate the implementation of the Watershed Action Plan.
2006 – RRWC underwent its first strategic planning process.
2007 – RRWC filed for incorporation with the State of Ohio.
2008 – RRWC granted 501(c)3 nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service.
2009 – Rocky River Upper West Branch Balanced Growth Plan endorsed by State of Ohio.
Board of Trustees
The RRWC itself is governed by a Chairman and a 14-member Board of Trustees. RRWC committees include Executive, Public Education and Involvement, Development and Volunteer/Membership. The Board meets monthly on the fourth Wednesday of the month, except months in which a quarterly full council meeting is held.
All meetings of the RRWC and its Board are free and open to the public.
The 2012 Board Of Trustees:
Chair — Ed Kelly
Vice Chair - Mike Durkalec
Secretary - Elaine Lamb
Treasurer - Alice Prahst
Lois Bluhm Kathleen Bradley
Elva Edger Mel Hauser
Steve Lizewski Dan Miltner
Pat Nortz Tom Romito
Beth Schnabel Jim Spetz
The RRWC’s by-laws establish the framework under which the RRWC operates.
The RRWC strategic plan, completed in 2007, details the process through which the RRWC will work to fulfill its mission.
About the Rocky River Watershed
The Rocky River Watershed consists of the entire area that drains to the Rocky River when it rains. This 294 square-mile network of neighborhoods, farms, forests, parks, roads and streams stretches from Medina to Lake Erie, and includes parts of Cuyahoga, Medina, Lorain and Summit Counties, including all or part of 32 municipalities and townships.
Nitrogen loading and habitat modification, including siltation, are the primary water quality stressors facing the Rocky River Watershed (RRWAP Appendix D). The Rocky River TMDL establishes a watershed-wide nitrogen reduction goal of 935,000 lbs/yr – a total equal to 46% of the current estimated load. Phosphorus is of secondary – but growing – concern. During Ohio EPA’s 1992 water quality assessment, phosphorus loading was below recommended targets. By 1997, it had increased to the point that a TMDL was warranted, with the 2001 TMDL creating a watershed-wide reduction goal of 24,740 lbs/yr.
Nutrient loading becomes more of a problem in the lower portion of the watershed, particularly the Mainstem, than in the upstream subwatersheds (with the highly elevated nutrient levels in Baldwin Creek being the exception). On the other hand, habitat modification, including channel incision, bank erosion, siltation and an overall homogeneity of geomorphic features, persists primarily in the upstream HUC-14 and smaller subwatersheds (RRWAP pages D-2,3). For all stream segments in the watershed that are listed by the state of Ohio as having partially for fully impaired for their Designated Aquatic Life Uses– the Mainstem, Abram Creek, Baldwin Creek, Plum Creek near Olmsted Falls, Plum Creek at Brunswick (there are two Plum Creeks in the watershed), the South Branch, the lower West Branch, and Baker and Blodgett Creeks – nitrogen and/or habitat modification are the causes of impairment. Many of these segments also have a bacteria-related Recreational Use impairment (RRWAP pages D-11 to D-28).
Even though the 2001 Rocky River TMDL does not address sediment, the Rocky River WAP identifies siltation/embedded substrate/sediment loading as a problem in the Mainstem (B-10), Abram Creek (B-11), East Branch (B-12), Baldwin Creek (b-13), North Royalton ‘A’ Tributary (B-14), Healey Creek (B-14), West Branch (B-15), Mallet Creek (B-17), North Branch (B-18), and Plum Creek at Brunswick (B-19).
Urban and suburban development is the most important factor impacting water quality and aquatic habitat in the Rocky River Watershed. New developments, both large and small, have been commonplace for more than 50 years. The lower portion of the watershed, including the Mainstem, Abram Creek and Baldwin Creek subwatersheds, is almost entirely urban and suburban. In fact, impaired stream segments in the watershed are associated almost exclusively with developed areas (RRWAP page C-1). While overall land use in the watershed is only 14% urban, this development is largely concentrated in its headwater systems. For instance, Abram Creek is over 45% urban, Baldwin Creek is almost 27% urban, and Plum Creek at Brunswick is over 21% urban (RRWAP pages A-11,12). Each of these subwatersheds drain less than 12 square miles, and each is considered impaired for its designated aquatic life uses. Further demonstrating the plight of the Rocky River’s headwaters is Healey Creek, a tributary to the East Branch. While just over 1000 acres of this 3023-acre watershed have been developed, almost exclusively in low-density residential, over 90% of this development is concentrated in the upper half of the watershed. The lower, less-disturbed half of Healey Creek has good instream habitat, scoring a QHEI of 65 at the lone Ohio EPA sampling location in 1997, 0.9 miles upstream of its confluence with the East Branch. The upstream half, however, is characterized by channel incision, eroding streambanks and heavily embedded substrates. While not listed by Ohio EPA as impaired, the Rocky River WAP identifies habitat modification due to urban runoff as a high-magnitude stressor (RRWAP page D-17). This is illustrative of the condition of the Rocky River’s headwaters in its many developed areas.