In March of 1913, Ohio experienced the worst natural disaster in its history as a state. Three days of heavy rain resulted in a flood that destroyed thousands of acres of farmland and killed over 450 people. Damages were estimated at $143 million, which equates to over $13 billion in today’s currency. The Ohio State Legislature enacted the Conservancy Act, which allows different geographic regions to establish Conservancy Districts. Locally, this district would create a conduit for funding an action plan to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.
In Medina County, we are impacted by the Yellow Creek Watershed, which spans 9 townships, including Sharon Center and Granger. Due to increased development, runoff stormwater has presented a problem for those who reside within the Yellow Creek area. Stream beds are eroding, and water pollution is already a serious problem. As the community continues to grow, the possibility of another potentially destructive flood encroaches closer and closer.
In 2014, the Yellow Creek area was impacted by flooding. Brenda McShaffrey saw a need to take advantage of the Conservancy Act, and she took action to form the Yellow Creek Foundation, a nonprofit that will grow into a Conservancy District once their petition gathers enough signatures.
“We became a nonprofit in May,” says McShaffrey, the organization President. “Our goal is ongoing education, and to maintain a fund to enhance watershed stability.”
“This is the only approach proven to control flooding,” adds Director Mark Spisak. “Flooding can’t be stopped, but it can be controlled.”
Aside from potential flooding, how does the state of the Yellow Creek Watershed impact life in Medina County?
“Water is a scarce resource,” says Spisak. “We are very lucky here. Some places are treating wastewater, injecting it in the ground, and drinking it. We have plenty of water, we need to treat it accordingly. Minimizing flooding will increase recharge of water in aquifer. The headwaters of Yellow Creek are Sharon Center, Granger, Copley, and Bath. Areas where residents have wellwater problems and farmers have irrigation issues.”
Director James Stender explains that problems stem from the heavily eroded state of the Yellow Creek Watershed. Due to erosion and excess runoff, it has expanded and changed, gotten rid of oxbows, and moved sediment.
“When that happens, roads flood out,” explains Stender. “There is a house that has been abandoned at the east part of our watershed. There have been cars that have flooded away, it is happening all around here. Having a Conservancy District will provide us to take action in a way that the affected townships are unable to do on their own.”
The state of our watershed is a genuine safety concern, and the quality of the water impacts our health and our locally grown food. The water quality could be improved, as the lack of macroinvertibrates and fish in local tributaries implies a suffering water quality. By sustaining our local watershed, we improve property values and keep our community as beautiful as it was meant to be.
So far, local reception has been warm. College professors are offering assistance in spreading information, and local students have been volunteering their time with the Yellow Creek Foundation.
“Our biggest challenge is by far just getting the signatures,” says Spisak. “It’s just getting the right people who live in the water shed and primarily reside in the water shed. Our overall goal is that our neighboring watersheds will do the same thing.”
“We are confident we will get a conservancy district established,” says McShaffrey. “It will lead to a more beautiful Ohio, safer roads, and higher water quality. Higher water quality and easier irrigation efforts leads to better crops, which grows healthier people. The state of our watershed affects all of us in Northeast Ohio, and it is important to sustain this ongoing education program to make a difference by improving and enhancing the Yellow Creek Watershed.”
Want to learn more about the Yellow Creek Foundation? Visit YellowCreekFoundation.org and find out how you can get involved.