Supply Chain News / Green Matters / Risk & Compliance / Ocean

Ohio Lawmakers Urge Army Corps to Pursue All Options For Proper Lake Erie Maintenance

Ohio Congressional Delegation secured $95 million for Great Lakes navigation projects in appropriations bill.

Reps. David Joyce (OH-14), Bob Gibbs (OH-7), and Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), along with U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to pursue all options necessary to ensure Lake Erie is appropriately dredged and maintained as soon as possible. The Great Lakes—especially Lake Erie—are vital to serving Ohio’s economic needs, but shipping channels have not been adequately maintained and there is a backlog of critical dredging needs.

“The maintenance of the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland Harbor and Lake Erie is critical to Northeast Ohio’s economic well-being as the region relies upon the movement of goods across the Great Lakes navigation system,” the lawmakers wrote. “All efforts must be made to ensure timely dredging of the river. Delays would needlessly harm the industries and businesses which rely on the river.”

USACE recently submitted a dredging request for the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor. Its proposal, however, is to dispose all dredged sediment into Lake Erie, which the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) doesn’t view as environmentally safe. If OEPA doesn’t sign off on the proposal, critical dredging could be postponed at the expense of Ohio’s economy. Brown, Portman, Gibbs, Joyce, and Kaptur urged USACE to propose a contingency plan that would dispose of dredged sediment in confined disposal facilities (CDF). The Cleveland Port has notified the Corps that there is sufficient CDF space available for this year. The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, provided $7.4 million for dredging, disposal and maintenance of the Cleveland Harbor and Cuyahoga River.

In January 2014, the aforementioned lawmakers secured $95 million in bipartisan Omnibus Bill funds for Great Lakes harbor and channel dredging, lock and dam operation and maintenance, and repair of breakwaters. They also helped to secure $300 million in the Omnibus for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain and restore the chemical, biological and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. Further, the Great Lakes play a vital and cost-efficient role in transporting food, materials, and other components necessary to aiding Ohio’s workers and businesses. But in order for this function to continue, the Great Lakes’ harbors and channels must be dredged and maintained.

Their letter to USACE can be read in its entirety below:

Lt. Colonel Owen J. Beaudoin
Department of the Army
1776 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14207-3199

Dear Lt. Colonel Beaudoin:

It has come to our attention that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) disagree about the appropriate disposal of dredged sediment from the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor. It is our understanding that the USACE believes that the sediment can be placed in Lake Erie without environmental harm and has exclusively pursued the open lake disposal option despite OEPA’s belief that the sediment does not meet the environmental standards necessary for this disposal method.

The USACE has recently issued the maintenance dredging request for proposal (RFP) for the Cuyahoga River. This RFP did not include a contingency for placing the dredged sediment in the confined disposal facilities (CDF) should USACE not receive the necessary permit from OEPA for open lake disposal. As you know, dredged sediment from the harbor and river has been placed in the CDFs for decades and sufficient capacity remains for at least two years’ worth of additional dredging. In fact, the FY 2014 Omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress provided the USACE sufficient funding to dredge and dispose of the sediment in the CDF. We are concerned that by failing to include the CDF option in the current RFP, USACE will needlessly delay dredging activities this year.

The maintenance of the Cuyahoga River, Cleveland Harbor, and Lake Erie is critical to Northeast Ohio’s economic well-being as the region relies upon the movement of goods across the Great Lakes navigation system. All efforts must be made to ensure timely dredging of the river. Delays would needlessly harm the industries and businesses which rely on the river. We request that USACE immediately amend the bid documents to include a contingency so that all dredged sediment from the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor can be placed in the CDFs should the OEPA not approve open lake disposal.  

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