The federal taxpayer money to the Black River Conservation Corps will partially be spent on hiring 10 long-term unemployed people to continue removal of invasive plants and restoring 30 acres of habitat, said Donald Romancak, Lorain County community development director. Additional money will go for removal equipment and landfill disposal.
Plants like phragmites and purple loosestrife will be removed, with work beginning in April and concluding in November. The work will take place primarily in Lorain and a small part of Sheffield from the mouth of the river by the Lorain Lighthouse to the East 31st Street bridge.
The Corps is named after the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal-era initiative that employed people to do environmental work during the Great Depression. Romancak said the jobs will be 30 to 40 hours per week and pay $11 an hour.
Much of the work will be manual labor — cutting plants or removing them by hand and then hauling them to trash bins. Workers will be recruited though the Lorain County Workforce Development Agency.
“We’re looking for laborers, people who aren’t afraid of a little hard work,” Romancak said. “It’s quite an endeavor.”
Work this year follows a two-year, $960,000 grant awarded in 2012 and covering 40 acres. The new grant allows work through 2016 in the same area.
The new grant is part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an EPA effort that awarded a combined $5 million Tuesday to projects in Michigan, New York and Ohio. The long-term goal of the grants is removing invasive plants and species from the Great Lakes basin and restoring native plants, said Peter Cassell, an EPA spokesman in the agency’s Chicago office.
Romancak said the effort continues the goals of the 1972 Clean Water Act and targets waterways with a long history of pollution. Ohio had the ninth-most toxins released into its waterways in 2010 nationally, according to the EPA.
Among Ohio waterways, Lake Erie had the 10th-most toxins released, while the Black River was ranked 31st. The Ohio EPA recommends people eat only one meal of sport fish per week caught in Ohio waterways, including the Black River, because of heavy contamination of mercury, a toxic metallic element. Sport fish include bass, trout and walleye.
Besides environmental benefits, Romancak said there are economic ones. Clean water will make it easier for local businesses to get permits and be used by nearby steel plants.
“It can be a positive for everything from the bird watcher and the fisherman all the way through to our steelworkers,” he said. “We’re all dependent upon the water.”
People interested in being hired by the Black River Conservation Corps should call Lorain County Workforce Development at (440) 284-4664 or (440) 985-2045.