Project Snapshot: Protecting Water Quality on the Maumee River

LJB environmental scientist Marion Wells measures mussels on a survey boat.

LJB environmental scientist Marion Wells measures mussels on a survey boat.

LJB environmental scientist Marion Wells recently found herself working 10-hour days in a new office—a large boat on the Maumee River in Henry County, Ohio. Luckily, it was only temporary as part of a freshwater mussel survey.

LJB and its partner EnviroScience Inc., mobilized to conduct the survey at a proposed bridge replacement site in Henry County within one day of receiving authorization. The team is providing surveys of state and/or federal threatened and endangered species and reporting as part of an Ohio statewide ecological resources survey contract for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

“Mussels are a protected species in the Midwest because their numbers are dwindling,” Marion explained. “This is potentially hazardous because mussels filter water, serving as a purification system to our waterways.”

Sample of mussels that were relocated during the survey.

Sample of mussels that were relocated during the survey.

In the past, mussels have adapted to changing water quality in rivers and streams. Because they are tough and highly adaptable, the fact that they are declining in number indicates that our water quality is changing. Protecting them for the continued filtering and monitoring of our water is imperative.

The survey team was on the water nine days, spending long hours on the boat and another 3 hours each day doing survey preparation. The team of seven consisted of ecologists and divers and required the use of two boats. One boat was for the divers and their gear, while the other was used by the ecologists.

“That was definitely the longest time I have worked on a boat,” Marion said, “But we were able to successfully relocate hundreds of mussels.”

During the survey, the divers went 6 to 8 feet underwater to search for mussels. They searched a 250 meter area. The ecologists on the boat provided species identification and documentation. At the end of each day, mussels were moved to the relocation area a half-mile upstream.

The survey identified seven live mussel species and eight dead species.

Mussel surveys and relocations have to take place right before construction. This project has four survey phases that are aligned with the construction phases of the new bridge. The team has completed two thus far. Another survey will be conducted when the old bridge is taken down.

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