City weighs sponsoring 3rd conservation project

Marietta City Council is considering sponsoring a third conservation project as a means of reducing the interest rate of an upcoming loan.

“I like sponsoring wetlands conservation and restoration projects because it’s really not a risk to the city,” explained City Engineer Joe Tucker Tuesday. “The current interest rate for Ohio Water Development Authority loans is 2.1 percent, but if the city chooses to sponsor a restoration project, that drops to 2 percent, saving between $80,000 and $95,000 in city taxpayer dollars.”

The loan would go to pay in part for disinfection and high river pumping systems at the wastewater treatment plant as part of Phase III Scope 4 renovations this year which Tucker predicts will cost between $8 and $10 million.

Council is considering the sponsorship of the Bloomfield Swamp Restoration Project located in Trumbull and Ashtabula counties to offset that interest cost. In the past, similar projects in Ashtabula and Jackson counties have saved city tax dollars in the same fashion.

“I’m all for this because the risk to the city is just the interest that we would have paid anyway for the loan,” said Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th ward.

No funds from city coffers go to these conservation projects, the city simply serves as an added protection with a vested interest in preserving the lands for their intended use.

Chris Szell, director of conservation project management for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said the project would not only be a benefit to the city in terms of lower interest rates, but also help save both federally and state protected species living in the wetlands.

“The Eastern Massauga Snake is Ohio’s federally endangered rattlesnake and they live primarily within the watershed where the Bloomfield Swamp is,” he explained. “And the site is an important migratory stopover for ducks and wading birds so we want to restore the site for their protection.”

The wetland hydrology project would help to restore 245 acres of the 1,103 acres owned by the Natural Areas Land Conservancy which works in conjunction with the Western Reserve Conservancy to protect these type of sites primarily in northern Ohio.