Corps of Engineers Proposes Restoring Ohio Riverbanks

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
2 June 2016
By Don Hopey

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a report recommending restoration of 7.8 acres of highly urbanized floodplain along the north shore of the Ohio River from the Carnegie Science Center to just beyond the West End Bridge.

The 10-month, $256,000 study co-produced by the Corps and Riverlife, a nonprofit working on public access improvements to the region’s rivers, outlines a $10.8 million project along approximately 4,000 feet of riverbank that would restore a floodplain wetland; improve aquatic habitat in the river; create more natural, sloping riverbanks; remove invasive species; and construct recreation features and interpretive signs.

“It’s a re-naturalization of the riverbank,” said Jay Sukernek, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Pittsburgh-based Riverlife. “If such a greening of the urban riverfront can be done at the headwaters of the Ohio River it could be done anywhere, and would be yet another example of how the Pittsburgh riverfront can serve as a model for other cities.”

The 61-page project report was released for public comment Thursday, and Riverlife will hold a public informational meeting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. next Thursday at the Carnegie Science Center.

The project area is dominated by heavy commercial and industrial development, including the science center, surface parking lots, Heinz Field, Rivers Casino, warehouses and outdoor storage lots. The report acknowledges that those developed properties will create “significant constraints on available land” and limit the project scope, especially away from the river.

Mr. Sukernek said construction is not expected to begin for three to five years, and much of the actual work will be along the river’s shoreline and extending into the river, below the water line. He said 65 percent, or almost $6.7 million, of the project costs would be covered by the Corps.

Tomma Barnes, the Corps’ Planning and Environment Branch chief for the Pittsburgh District, said the project aims to restore the historic riparian habitat in the Ohio River headwaters area.

“The plan outlined in the report recommends specific improvements to the riverbanks which will increase the natural habitat in the area, and that is priceless,” Ms. Barnes said. “We are basically putting a little piece of nature back into a very urbanized area for fish, birds and other wildlife.”

The full report can be viewed at the Corps website:,ProgramsProjectManagement/ProjectReviewPlans.aspx, and comments are invited through July 5.

Don Hopey:, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter @donhopey.