Northern Ohio

Save Spitzer

Goal: Prevent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from constructing a breakwater and submerged wetland project on top of the regionally significant wave known as Spitzer.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with the City of Lorain on a project to dredge and place dredge spoils from the Black River.  The current preferred alternative project is to construct a breakwater and submerged wetland just east of Lorain Harbor, which would destroy the regionally significant surf spot known as Spitzer. The Surfrider Foundation Northern Ohio Chapter is working with the local group Save Our Spitzer and those who love this iconic break to ensure it is spared from destruction via this project.

UPDATE! On March 18, 2022, the Army Corps published a Detailed Project Report and Environmental Assessment and identified a new preferred project alternative. As opposed to building a submerged wetland at Spitzer, they are planning to build an artificial reef to create fish habitat north of the combined disposal facility and east harbor breakwater (see image below). Click the link above to access the full document, and read on below for a summary and talking points for submitting public comments. Public comments are due by Monday, April 18, 2022 and need to be emailed to BlackRiver_Lorain204@usace.army.mil.

NEW Preferred Alternative of the Army Corps/City of Lorain: Offshore Artificial Reef

The overall goal of the project is to restore some of the aquatic ecosystem functions that are currently absent or degraded in the region. Dredged material from the Black River will be containerized within geosynthetic containers (GSCs) to construct submerged reef habitat for fish. (GSC containers are essentially very heavy duty woven plastic bags that will be sealed.) The sediment filled GSCs will be placed on the lake bottom where lakebed elevations range from –24 to -27 feet below low-water datum (LWD)using split bottom scows to create bathymetric variability that will attract and congregate a variety of Great Lakes fish species. Following placement of the GSCs, the surface of the reef will be topped with gravel, cobble, and boulders to create a suitable substrate and structural habitat that supports the spawning, refuge, and rearing of smallmouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch and a variety of other native Great Lakes fish species.

The habitat will span 14 acres and will be located north of the east breakwater and combined disposal facility (- pink circle below depicts project location).

Notably, the Army Corps was asked by the City of Lorain to remove the Spitzer project alternative from consideration on May 27, 2021, in response to testimony provided and information gathered from the surfing community and Surfrider Foundation. (See Appendix I – Surfing Impact Analysis here.) JOB WELL DONE, surfing community!!!

However, our work here is not completely over. Please take a moment to write the Army Corps (BlackRiver_Lorain204@usace.army.mil) to thank them for their additional analysis of recreational impacts and to offer concurrence with their findings and determination that the Spitzer site alternative (Alternative 2) is not acceptable due to the impacts to recreational resources at that site. Please also encourage them to make all efforts to ensure that this new offshore reef alternative will not negatively impacts surfing opportunities at Spitzer through being mindful of construction staging, establishing robust monitoring of the project site and constructed project conditions for the lifespan of the project to ensure that it’s functioning as planned and not negatively impacting the surrounding area, and having plans and funding in place in the event that there is a structural failure of the project that requires its timely repair or removal. (Note: the City of Lorain will be responsible for 1/2 the costs of site monitoring during the first 10 years, and 100% responsible for any monitoring that takes place after 10 years as well as all operation and maintenance costs over the lifespan of the project.)

The Surfrider Foundation has a standing policy on artificial surfing reefs, which can be read here. Although this reef is not necessarily meant to produce surfable waves (–however, it may create a wave based on the abrupt change in elevation of the bathymetry in this location that the project will create…we shall see!), our policy is applicable to the extent that Surfrider Foundation advocates for thorough assessment and monitoring, and contingency plans in the event of structural failure, to make sure this artificial reef does not degrade recreational surfing opportunities.