Commercial shipping in the Cuyahoga River depends on regular dredging by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps wants to start disposing of that dredged material in Lake Erie. At an open house the Corps held Wednesday night, Joanna Richards looked into how it’s trying to sell its many skeptics on the idea.
Existing storage facilities for dredging waste are getting full, and the Corps says the material it’s removing from Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga these days is cleaner than in the past – clean enough that it won’t pose a threat to drinking water or wildlife in the lake.
With displays set up at St. Malachi Church, the Corps tried to allay public fears.
“We can show them the modeling efforts we’ve done and the testing efforts we’ve done, and why we are confident that there’s not going to be any impact to the water intakes,” said Lieutenant Colonel Owen Beaudoin. He said the Corps is required to dispose of dredged material the cheapest way it can that still meets its environmental standards. That means into the lake, he said. Storage facilities are far more costly.
“It’s two, three dollars more a cubic yard, which doesn’t sound like a lot – you’re talking a few dollars,” Beaudoin said. “But we dredge about 225,000 cubic yards out of Cleveland.”
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has yet to rule on whether the plan meets its own environmental standards. Along with many elected officials and environmental advocates, the agency has signaled it has doubts.
Beaudoin said he expects a formal response from the state EPA to the application by week’s end. He said a denial could prompt the Corps to delay further dredging – which could threaten commercial shipping on the river.