The Cooper Creek Collaborative (CCC) is a partnership of multiple organizations and community members who have come together to restore the Cooper Creek watershed. We are working to rebuild a healthy natural stream system to be enjoyed by the community and local wildlife. Under the leadership of the District, CCC is focusing its efforts on mitigating the impacts of “urban hydrologic alteration” (UHA) on the creek within a 1-mile2 Demonstration Watershed. UHA is the most wide-spread and foundational cause of biological degradation in creeks in Hamilton County and in urban/sub-urban areas throughout the region (and many regions globally). There are two primary in-stream symptoms of UHA: 1) reduced baseflow between rain events (our creeks are drying-out!), and 2) increased frequency of erosive flash flows in response to rain events.
Mitigating the impacts of UHA is no small task! In fact, it is not entirely clear that doing so, to a biologically relevant extent, is feasible in densely urbanized areas. For this reason, our work has attracted the attention and participation of several research groups from EPA, the University of Cincinnati, and the Ohio State University. The ultimate goal of the CCC’s Demonstration Watershed program is to restore a more natural hydrology, and more diverse biological community, to Cooper Creek. We pursue this goal in a methodical and data-driven manner that will facilitate answering key research questions associated with the feasibility and best practices for restoring urban streams.
CCC was founded in early 2019 and after two-years of planning, funding acquisition, and base-line monitoring, the fruits of our labor are beginning to emerge. In 2020, our first two projects were installed and funding was secured in support of additional projects to be implemented in 2021. CCC’s first wave of mitigation efforts is focused on three project types: urban reforestation, detention basin retrofitting, and installation of natural wood structures into the creek to create pool habitat and slow down erosive flows. In 2021, projects of each of these three types will be installed.
Research efforts have steadily ramped-up in the Demonstration Watershed over the last two-years and momentum continues to build. Our research partners are working to answer questions with importance to urban stream restoration: How effective are each of our mitigation strategies at naturalizing in-stream hydrology? How do urban fish populations move in response to unnaturally high frequencies of erosive flash flows (and through “perched” culvert)? How do aging sanitary sewers laid along\-side the creek (a very common occurrence) influence instream hydrology? Can we develop low-cost methods for improving the capacity of our soil to soak-up rainwater?
In addition to answering these important questions, much of this work is creating valuable research experience for local university students and helping to build the next generation of problem-solvers to address these problems.
There is simply too much going on in the Cooper Creek Demonstration Watershed to discuss in detail in a single article. We are working to document and provided updates on each of our on-going mitigation and research efforts at CooperCreek.org. We have also just launched a Cooper Creek Collaborative Facebook page to share updates on projects, new initiatives, and opportunities for the public to get involved and to enjoy the Creek. Keep an eye out for information on “Cooper Creek Adventure” opportunities coming soon!