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Revitalization of Ohio Streams

By Raquel Jones, Greater Ohio Policy Center Intern

While Cincinnati has recently gained media exposure for taking on the task of uncovering a stream that has been buried for almost a century, this is certainly not the first case of so-called daylighting in the state. Cities throughout Ohio--including Dayton and Mayfield, for example--have been pursuing more sustainable urban infrastructure by unearthing previously buried streams for the many benefits that this practice can provide.

The term daylighting specifically refers to projects that deliberately expose all or some of a previously covered stream. When uncovered, the waterway is either re-established in the old channel if possible, or threaded between structures now present on the land. Stream daylighting is a key technique for making urban infrastructure more sustainable since it reduces sewage back-up and overflows caused by heavy rains while avoiding the hefty costs of having to replace current underground piping. Uncovering streams in urban areas can also give people a chance to interact with nature while staying within the confines of the city. Private development may also be attracted to the natural scenery and decide to put up business within vicinity of the stream.

NPR recently ran a story on the Lick Run project in Cincinnati that aims to uncover a local stream, which will save the city the $200 million that it would have cost to replace the underground pipes to contain it. Mayfield in Cuyahoga County completed a similar project back in 2006 with the restoration of Foster’s Run, which had been one of the most severely eroded tributaries of the Chagrin River before this project daylighted and restored sections of the stream. In June of 2011, the City of Delaware began a daylighting project in which a 600-foot section of buried storm water drainage was transformed into an open-air stream channel to improve water quality and aquatic habitat, relieve flooding, and reduce runoff.

All of these projects are steps in the right direction toward revitalizing our urban areas in Ohio, something that we care deeply about here at GOPC.