Purpose of the Project
The Portage Lakes are a multi-use chain of lakes in Coventry Township, New Franklin, and Green, immediately south of Akron and the Ohio River-Lake Erie basin divide. They are part of the Portage Lakes State Park and are a regional recreation, economic, and natural resource. The lakes are the center of a thriving community and intense recreational use, with thousands of residents nearby and 300,000 visitors per year who participate in boating, fishing, swimming, visiting the local businesses, and enjoying the natural setting. The lakes receive water from 74 square miles of the developed Upper Tuscarawas River watershed. They are also actively managed for flood control and mandated water transfer north across the basin divide. Nutrients from the intense uses of the lakes and watershed have built up over years and decades, and the lakes have become eutrophic, over-enriched.
The nutrient-rich water feeds dense growth of vegetation in the same shallow areas where people live, do business, boat, fish, and swim, creating conflicts. The aquatic vegetation is essential for the lakes’ habitats and health, and the uses the lakes support, but the dense growth is a nuisance for boaters, property owners, and those tasked with flood control and water diversion.
The purpose of the Portage Lakes Management Study is to develop a balanced approach to managing the aquatic plants and lakes, accommodating the various uses while protecting the lakes’ health and habitats. This requires an integrated, coordinated approach that considers actions within the context of the interconnected lakes and watershed system. The collaborative approach has been instrumental in developing a shared understanding of the lakes, plants, community, and priorities.
The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and other project partners include members from:
- Ohio Department of National Resources (ODNR)
- Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA)
- Portage Lakes Advisory Council (PLAC)
- Summit Soil and Water Conservation District
- Summit Metro Parks
- Summit County Public Health
- Summit County Department of Sanitary Sewer Services
- Green, New Franklin, Coventry Township, and Akron
- Lake scientists from Aqua Docs, EnviroScience, and Ohio State University
- Local businesses, interested volunteers, and residents
The project is supported by funding that NEFCO receives from the Ohio EPA, which are pass-through funds from USEPA. Funds are also provided by NEFCO's dues-paying members.
NEFCO used existing data and site visits to map and characterize the lakes and lake processes, watershed, community, and aquatic vegetation. For the past five years, NEFCO has worked with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), and other community and agency members to develop a shared understanding of the lake conditions and priorities. With assistance from the TAC, NEFCO developed a draft plan for holistically managing the lakes system, compiling background information, context, and recommendations. This plan draws on recent research and successful programs in other states. NEFCO will continue to provide mapping services, technical analysis, coordination, and other support for establishing lakes and plant management programs.
Progress to Date
During the first three years, NEFCO conducted studies to characterize the lakes, plant occurrences, watershed, and public perceptions. During years 4 and 5, NEFCO compiled additional information and wrote the plan. All the Portage Lakes planning work has involved discussions with the TAC, sharing information, comments, perspectives, ideas. Completing a draft plan is the beginning of a new, collaborative, integrated, technically based management approach. The TAC members have agreed to continue working together in a partnership and are collaboratively investigating approaches to manage plants in a balanced way and improve conditions in the lakes. Developing the necessary monitoring program and systematic program for lakes and aquatic plant management will require a new level of effort and resources, but the partners are ready to get to work.