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Bit By Bit, The Cuyahoga River Is Made More Fish Friendly

Fish structures along the Cuyahoga River, with the ArcelorMittal mill in the background. [photo: Matt Richmond / ideastream]

On a recent Friday morning, Peter Bode from Cuyahoga River Restoration headed out to check on fish shelters that were installed a year ago as part of a 10-year long project. the goal is to provide safe shelter for small fish living in the river’s shipping channel and they seem to be working so far.

His group uses four small kinds – one with half-submerged rubber flaps, one wooden cage, one metal cage, and one metal fence. Each of the 500 they’ve installed is tucked into the recesses of the steel walls lining this industrial stretch of the river.

With a steel mill and mountains of raw material looming just over his shoulder, Bode says they seem to be handling their gritty habitat.

“They’re a little mangled, the steel’s kind of hit, we got hit by a freighter, you know, delivering some of this stuff, but it’s still doing its job. I’m going to leave it there and hope it doesn’t get ripped off by another freighter," says Bode.

And besides the dozen or so that didn’t make it, the shelters seem to be a success so far, according to Bode. He says, once there’s enough algae and enough sticks and organic material lodged inside them, the hope is that small fish will take shelter from passing freighters or predators.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media who focuses on criminal justice.