The Ohio River and its basin are of national significance in both geographic scope and the fish and mussel resources contained within them. The Ohio River is the second largest river in the United States as measured by its annual discharge. The basin also contains at least 350 species of fish and more than 120 mussel species, including a number that are federally listed. Sportfishing is a major recreational activity with over 2.5 million angling hours recorded and 2.8 million fish caught within just the main-stem Ohio River during past surveys. It was with these resources in mind, that the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership (ORBFHP) coalesced from a meeting of approximately 50 federal and state agencies, NGOs, and academic representatives interested in the aquatic habitat of the Ohio River Basin.
The ORBFHP’s focus is embodied in its mission statement: The Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership focuses protection, restoration, and enhancement efforts on priority habitat for fish and mussels in the watersheds of the Ohio River Basin for the benefit of the public.
Partnership resources are focused on areas containing both regionally important fish and mussel species and where there are both angling and species diversity interests.
Watersheds are treated holistically, realizing that habitats within a watershed are interconnected and must be dealt with accordingly. Reservoirs will not be addressed in and of themselves, but rather as a part of the stream system within which they occur.
Conservation of the best areas of each type of habitat is prudent, but in addition, appropriate techniques will be applied to areas where restoration of fish and mussel habitats is necessary and positive results can be reasonably expected, particularly when they result in larger contiguous areas of quality habitat.
Use of sound science and measurement of results are foundational.
Public support is crucial to generating partnership momentum, securing funding, and ultimately completing on the ground work that will be done by or through local partnerships representing a broad range of interests.
Ultimately the ORBFHP also developed a core list of specific habitat protection/restoration strategic actions with SMART objectives nested under six strategy areas that include the National Fish Habitat Action Plan Board’s four interim habitat strategies. The strategies selected by the ORBFHP link well with State Wildlife Action Plans and other planning efforts in the basin. These strategy areas are:
• Identify and protect intact and healthy waters
• Restore natural variability in river and stream flows.
• Reconnect fragmented river and stream habitat, to allow access to historic spawning, nursery, and rearing grounds.
• Reduce and maintain sedimentation, phosphorus and nitrogen runoff to river, and stream habitats to a level within 25% of the expected natural variance in these factors or above numeric State Water Quality Criteria
• Reduce other key pollutants or degrading environmental conditions (acid drainage, heavy metals, altered temperatures, or oxygen levels) in degraded priority stream habitat to a level within 25% of natural rates or above numeric Stream Water Quality criteria by 2020.
• Reduce the potential for invasive species impact through prevention and control measures at the basin-level and within priority systems.