U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers Sees Cleveland Harbor Dredge As Commodity

The Port of Cleveland in 2014
The Port of Cleveland in 2014. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

With dredged material now viewed as a marketable commodity, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local agencies are seeking public input on a new 20-year dredging plan for Cleveland Harbor.

For nearly 50 years, dredged material has been stored in confined disposal facilities, isolating what was dredged from adjacent waterways. 

"Some of the projects we would look at possibly would be upland beneficial use, where we could take that material," said Russell Brandenburg, senior project manager with the Corps of Engineers. "We could have some shoreline projects that need fill and need material that would be beneficial to the project and help fill that void."

Brandenburg said the sediment can be used to create wetlands near Lake Erie, but also have a potential commercial use for the Port of Cleveland.

"They can take that material, they can harvest it, and they can then take that and sell that out into the marketplace and let them be used for landscaping or construction or creating some type of material that would be beneficial to not just the local economy, but to the region as a whole," Brandenburg said.

“We have entered a new era when it comes to dredge material,” said Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Laurie A. Stevenson in the release. “I am eager to continue our positive working relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as we move toward even more productive and beneficial uses for this valuable resource. I encourage anyone who has an interest to join the discussion and consider providing comments on the dredge material management plan.” 

Dredging is necessary in the Cuyahoga to keep the channel deep enough for large freighters to navigate. In the past, the Corps sought to deposit the sediment in Lake Erie, but the Ohio EPA denied the request, saying the sediment still might pose a risk to Lake Erie fish. Dredge material was dumped in disposal facilities along the shore.

Brandeburg noted the confined disposal facilities are reaching capacity. Though the plan will cover the next 20 years of dredging, it would be reviewed by stakeholders every five years. 

Among the stakeholders will be Burke Lakefront Airport, because of the location of dredging and the current confined disposal facility.

"That does impact [the airport] as the dredging takes place and it's right within their operations footprint. And also the fact that, down the road in so many years, there might be a possibility for them to want to use that facility when it's done," Brandenburg said

The harbor is currently dredged twice a year, but Brandenburg says the plan being discussed now wouldn't take effect in the near future.

"With the current process, we're looking at approximately three years to do this dredged material management plan," Brandenburg said. "There's a lot of signatures and a lot of approvals that have to be put in place before we can actually put our stamp of approval on this."

Public comments are being crowdsourced through the Army Corps of Engineers website through July 24. Brandenburg says the hope is to get as much feedback as possible from the public and private sector.

A second round of public comment will be held before the project is approved, he said.

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