Morrison Ditch Restoration Alleviates Flooding, Runoff

Lucas County Engineer Mike Pniewski points out the features of the recently completed Morrison Ditch project, which includes natural benches that will eventually be filled with native plantings to help filter runoff from nearby fields. Next up is a Van Fleet Ditch restoration project nearby. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

The whipping wind and barren fields make it hard to picture the native plantings and flowing water, but the new Morrison Ditch is a thing of beauty to Lucas County Engineer Mike Pniewski.

The 1,900-foot ditch, which runs between Monclova and Weckerly roads in Monclova Township, was recently transformed from a trapezoidal agricultural channel into a more natural configuration by providing floodplain benches along the stream Pniewski said.

“Through the increased stream profile and the planting of native vegetation on the benches and in buffer strips along the stream, we can both improve water quality while decreasing flood risk in the watershed,” he said. “This is a win-win for our citizens and demonstrates the benefits of two-stage stream restoration to the public and our agricultural community.”

This project is part of the county’s goal to use stream maintenance and restoration to protect the health of the Great Lakes, waterways and communities, he added.

While it is part of the Swan Creek Watershed, the Morrison Ditch project is separate from an overall Swan Creek Watershed ditch maintenance plan that will put all ditches into the ownership and care of the county. A separate ditch project for Van Fleet Ditch – about 1.5 miles between Monclova and Keener roads – is set for construction this summer. The dirt pulled from the ditch project will be used to construct a sledding hill at Keener Park, Pniewski said.

The Van Fleet Ditch will use the same configuration as the Morrison Ditch project: a two-stage channel. This configuration slows stream water during peak flows and allows time for particles to settle out into the bench area, reducing phosphorus loading and sedimentation downstream. The native plantings in the bench capture particles and other sedimentation as well as use the phosphorus in the water column as fertilizer. 

The channel will improve flood storage capacity within the banks of the creek and help alleviate flooding on adjacent properties. 

Both projects are anticipated to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loadings in the stream, which eventually flows into Lake Erie. Runoff from agricultural land and urban areas can transport tons of sediment and nutrients into waterways throughout the Great Lakes basin. 

Excess sediment and phosphorous can contribute to the formation of harmful algal blooms and dead zones and reduce fish habitat, resulting in economic and environmental losses. Construction of two-stage channels has been proven to reduce sediment and nutrient transport into the Great Lakes.

The Morrison Ditch Restoration Project is part of the Great Lakes Restora-tion Initiative (GLRI) and was led by the Lucas County Engineer’s Office. The $363,000 project was paid for with Lucas County Stormwater Utility Funds and a $113,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant Program. 

For maps of the Morrison Ditch and Van Fleet Ditch, visit

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