Currents | October 2023

Did you know that the Great Lakes are the biggest freshwater source in the world? Lake Erie is the most productive for fishing of all the Great Lakes. Your support helps make our streams clean, clear and healthy so they can support this complex ecosystem. By donating to PCS, you help us reach our goals of restoring rivers that lead to Lake Erie beaches that promote fishable and swimmable conditions for generations.

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October 2023

2023 October HeaderA bit of dust has settled: we’ve washed the river mud off our boots, the tire piles have been picked up for recycling, and we are sorting through many meticulously filled-out data cards from passionate citizen scientists. We’re pleased to share some preliminary results from the 27th Annual Clean Your Streams. How did our volunteers stack up against previous years?

Clean Your Streams is the largest single-day watershed clean-up in Northwest Ohio, as well as the largest clean-up in Ohio that contributes marine debris data to the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) database. Volunteers have an impact on watersheds around our region, including the Maumee River, Ottawa River, Swan Creek, and Maumee Bay tributaries.

Remote Kickoff

Volunteers chose a time and location during the week leading up to Clean Your Streams Day, submitted liability forms, then shared data and pictures following their clean-ups. The Remote Kickoff allows us to expand the geographic impact of our program and is flexible for volunteers who can’t make the Saturday clean-up. This year, most of our remote volunteers cleaned up in the Greater Toledo area, but we also had groups clean-up at Catawba Island on Lake Erie, in Summit County near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and on Bowling Green State University’s campus.

Preliminary Remote Kickoff Results
Volunteers: 170
Sites cleaned: 18
Pounds of marine debris removed: 3316 pounds
River miles covered: 14.3 miles

In next month’s edition of Currents, we look forward to sharing our Collegiate Challenge winners, plus a more detailed results breakdown of volunteers, sites, and marine debris removed across all of the 27th Annual Clean Your Streams.

Photo Challenge Winners

We received so many incredible submissions this year for “Strangest Find” photos that we couldn’t pick just one favorite!

1st Place “Sloth Hanging Out” – Side Cut Kickoff site, photo by Gene Liegel

Side Cut Kickoff Sloth Hanging Out Gene Liegel

2nd Place “Couch Cushions from the Ottawa River” – Monroe St. UMC Kickoff site, photo by Jess Soffee

Monroe Street UMC Kickoff Couch Cushions from Ottawa River Credit Jess Soffee

3rd Place “Bowling Ball” – Side Cut Kickoff site, photo by Andrea Beach

Side Cut Bowling Ball Troop 66 Andrea Beach

Collegiate Winner – “Bike and Shopping Cart” – UT Kickoff site – from University of Toledo Environmental Law Society

Collegiate Winner UT Environmental Club

River Partner Certification

River Partner Certification recognizes businesses, nonprofits, agencies, and other civic groups who let us know they brought volunteer groups to Clean Your Streams.

River Guardian (30-49 volunteers) - The Andersons, Inc.

Stream Protector (10-29 volunteers) - Civil & Environmental Consultants, First Solar, Heritage Environmental Services, NSG Glass North America, Ohio EPA, Toledo Department of Public Utilities, Toledo FFA, Verdantas

Creek Crusader (1-9 volunteers) – Arcadis, Fort Industry Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, Lowes, Racing for Recovery, U.S. Coast Guard, Vacation Daze with Cassie

Youth Challenge Awards

Youth groups submitted their data at the post-clean-up volunteer appreciation picnic and winners were announced later that afternoon.

Most Volunteers: Awarded to the groups with the most CYS volunteers
1st    Toledo Early College High School (92 volunteers)
2nd   Northwood Pack 244 (35)
3rd    BSA Troop 66 (25)

Awesome Effort: Awarded to the groups with the greatest number of full bags per person
1st    Whitmer Science and Environmental Club
2nd   BSA Troop 66
3rd    BSA Pack 214

Bonus: Tire Champions. Special acknowledgement goes to the Toledo ZOOTeens, who removed an astounding 33 tires during their clean-up!

Battle of the Bags: Awarded to the groups who fill the greatest number of total trash bags
1st    Toledo Early College High School
2nd   BSA Troop 66
3rd    Toledo ZOOTeens

StewardshipYou better be-leaf it! Fall leaves that wash into stormwater are a contributor to excess nutrients in our Great Lakes. Learn how changes to your yard practices can make a positive difference this autumn.

How big of a deal can autumn leaves be for our waterways? After all, leaves are all-natural!

At the simplest level, leaf litter in storm drains blocks the flow of water. This means enough leaf litter piled in curbs or covering drains can cause roads to flood. Leaves can also cause blockages inside a drain and damage our local pipes. However, there’s more to the story.

Decaying leaves are full of nutrients, especially phosphorous. In environments like forests, prairies, and wetlands, soil and plants absorb these extra nutrients and they go on to become plant food. However, cities are full of hard surfaces like streets, parking lots, and buildings. Leaves still fall, but there’s nowhere for those nutrients to go besides getting washed into stormwater. Stormwater is untreated, meaning it flows directly from your street into a local ditch or stream, into a larger waterway like Swan Creek, the Ottawa River, or the Maumee River, and ultimately out into Lake Erie. That means all the nutrients that would sink into the soil of a forest instead get channeled right into our Great Lakes, contributing to algal blooms.

It turns out that the nutrients from municipal leaves have a big impact on our Great Lakes. A 2016 study in Madison, Wisconsin found that timely autumn leaf removal can reduce harmful phosphorus in stormwater by over 80 percent!

Taking care of your autumn leaves can save you money and time spent on your yard, help your municipality take care of its stormwater, and help Lake Erie’s nutrient levels all at the same time. Here are our leaf tips this autumn:

  1. Use a lawnmower to mulch the leaves on your lawn. Leave them in place or put them on your garden beds. The nutrients from leaves create free fertilizer for your plants to use.
  2. If you want to rake your leaves for municipal collection, make sure to keep leaf piles out of the curb and away from storm drains. If your street has a sidewalk, between the street and the sidewalk is the sweet spot.
  3. If you remove your own leaves to take them to be composted, temporarily bagging them reduces the chances that leaves will get loose and pollute our waterways.
  4. Adopt a storm drain. You can take responsibility for storm drains near your home or workplace and get into the habit of making sure they’re free from leaves, trash, and other debris. Learn more on adopting storm drains from Clear Choices, Clean Water Toledo-Lake Erie.

StewardshipWe’re proud of how our programs benefit our region’s rivers, streams, and creeks, but which rivers, streams and creeks, exactly? Dive deeper into our water with a slept-on section of our website: About Our Waterways.

Northwest Ohio is home to some of the rarest ecosystems on Earth. Thousands of years ago, glacier movements carved out our extraordinary Great Lakes. The ancient shores of Lake Erie created a landscape of momentous sand dunes and densely-forested wetlands. Before drainage projects began in the late 19thcentury, the Great Black Swamp stretched for nearly one million acres across Northwest Ohio, Southeast Michigan, and Northeast Indiana. Today, our region hosts rare wet prairie ecosystems, vernal pools, coastal wetlands, and sand dunes that seem to rise mysteriously out of forests and fields. This unique landscape sets the stage for incredible biodiversity to take root in Northwest Ohio. Lucas County boasts more rare and endangered species than any other county in Ohio. (Source: Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

Clean, clear, and safe water forms the nexus for this network of life. Our waterways are home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, and serve as highways for many more. Abundant fresh water is a resource we shouldn’t take for granted. At Partners for Clean Streams, we love to walk alongside our rivers, boat on them, fish in them, and of course, drink the fresh water they provide. Every day and in many ways, our connection to our waterways runs deep.

Dive into the Lake Erie tributaries that make up our region’s lifelines: About Our Waterways.

StewardshipIt takes a village to pull off Clean Your Streams for 27 years running! We want to highlight some of the sponsors who make our programs possible, and share ways that you can contribute to our mission all year long.

First of all, we’d like to thank again a returning grant funder for 2023. In 2022, we announced that the Greater Toledo Community Foundation approved a grant from the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation Donor Advised Fund to Partners for Clean Streams for $17,535 to support marine debris removal efforts. This grant supported Clean Your Streams 365 programs earlier this year, and was also a key source of funding for the 27th Annual Clean Your Streams.

Partners for Clean Streams benefited from one returning Community Partner sponsor this year: O-I Charites Foundation. We are also grateful for the three Underwriter sponsors of The Andersons, Inc., Arcadis, and Jones & Henry Engineers and eight returning Underwriter sponsors. University of Toledo, First Solar, Lucas County Storm Water Utility, City of Toledo Environmental Services, City of Oregon, Kwest Group, NSG Glass North America, and OmniSource are repeat Underwriters! We are so grateful for these businesses, organizations, and municipalities’ continued commitment to our waterways. For a full list of our 27th Annual CYS sponsors, click here.

We are also supported by generous individuals who see the difference that our programs make both for our waterways and for the volunteers who get an opportunity to uplift their communities. You can make a one-time gift to Partners for Clean Streams online, or become a sustaining donor through our membership program. Consider getting involved with workplace giving via our partnership with Northwest Ohio Community Shares, or let your everyday shopping contribute to our programs via the Kroger Community Rewards program.

Partners for Clean Streams Inc. is striving for abundant open space and a high quality natural environment; adequate floodwater storage capacities and flourishing wildlife; stakeholders who take local ownership in their resources; and rivers, streams and lakes that are clean, clear and safe