Primary Headwater Stream Initiative
Kirtland, OH

Grantee: Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $26,465
Non-federal Funds: $31,365
Project Duration: 07/2003 - 01/2004
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Often neglected, primary headwater streams are the smallest streams, which can represent up to 75% of a larger river’s watershed network. Primary headwater streams are being degraded due to excessive and unnatural sediment discharges.

Lake County is an outlying urbanizing county of the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan Area. Due to increased urban development and associated increased sediment discharges, the Lake County Commissioners in 1999 adopted erosion and sediment control regulations to prevent sedimentation of watersheds within the unincorporated areas of the County. The City of Kirtland adopted a similar erosion and sediment control ordinance along with a riparian setback ordinance in 2002. The Lake Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) administers both erosion and sediment control programs for the two entities. The District has conducted 45 Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) plan reviews and completed over 600 erosion control inspections for the Lake County Commissioners since the adoption of their regulations in 1999.

The chemical, physical and biological quality of larger streams and rivers has a close connection to the overall health of headwater streams and their watersheds, a natural extension of the stream continuum concept. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) field evaluation for primary headwater streams allows SWCD personnel to determine the potential aquatic life-use designations for these streams. The Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index is a predictable three-tiered protocol for assigning aquatic life-use designations based on three physical measurements that correlate to biological measures of stream quality. The methodology in their ‘Field Manual’ is listed on Ohio EPA’s website:

Lake SWCD will complete 180 Primary Headwater Stream Assessments within the City of Kirtland and the unincorporated areas of Lake County over the course of the 2003 sampling season using the Ohio EPA’s Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index protocol. The goal is to enable District personnel to reduce sedimentation by identifying sediment discharges, assist in conducting proactive reviews of required ESC plans, evaluate the effectiveness of erosion control Best Management Practices (BMP’s) during site inspections, and monitor points of impairment based on selected environmental indicators.

Secondary goals would include increasing public and government entity awareness and education about sedimentation by providing direct internet access to water quality data and watershed maps through the District’s website.

A total of 203 Headwater habitat evaluations have been conducted, with 83.3 headwater stream miles surveyed. Stream sites have been labeled on Lake County’s geographic information system and 4 watersheds are completed within Lake County. Compliance with the Lake County Erosion and Sediment Control Rules and the City of Kirtland Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance are currently greater than 90%. This covers 120 square miles of Lake County. The project has finalized Primary Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index PDF forms for assessable streams, inventory data spreadsheets for each sampling location, and official use-designation classification spreadsheets for each sampling location. It has inventoried and identified macroinvertebrate voucher samples for the Headwater Macroinvertebrate Field Evaluation Index scoring system and inventoried salamander voucher specimens and created a geographic information system watershed maps depicting headwater habitat stream classification system.

Finalizing the data will allow the District to analyze the County’s watersheds determining critical stream resources to protect and locating degraded areas due to sedimentation. The District will also be able to disseminate this information to officials and the public through media and our District website. With the establishment of baseline data, a more effective evaluation of County and City of Kirtland erosion and sediment control regulations can be completed. Currently, the City of Willoughby Hills is in the process of adopting an erosion and sediment control ordinance similar to its neighbor community of Kirtland that was formulated by the District and the Chagrin River Watershed Partners. Another half dozen municipalities required to meet Phase II compliance will likely adopt this ordinance. The headwater stream initiative will continue to grow and involve these communities as well.

The District provided a field demonstration of the Headwater Stream Initiative to the 8 member Ohio Soil & Water Commission during their annual meeting in Lake County. The District also received the ‘Head of the Class Award’ from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for its visionary approach to and development of the Headwater Stream Initiative Program. The District feels this was a significant event in promoting the development of a statewide strategy for the protection of headwater streams through erosion and sediment control.

Contact: Mr. Matt Scharver, (440) 350-2031


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner