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Ohio EPA Decision Clears Way For Cleveland Harbor Dredging
Keeping Waterway Open to Shipping Traffic Essential to Regional Economy
Ohio EPA today approved a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Cleveland Harbor and Cuyahoga River, which is essential to allowing shipping traffic to continue using this economically important waterway.
Ohio EPA’s Section 401 water quality certification allows the Army Corps to dredge up to 225,000 cubic yards of material from six miles of the Cuyahoga River and deposit it in the designated confined disposal facilities, as it has done since the early 1970s. No dredged material can be placed in the open lake.
“We expect the Army Corps to dredge the entire navigation channel to keep the first six miles of the Cuyahoga River open for shipping traffic,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. “As long as sediments pose a risk to Lake Erie, all sediment should be disposed of in the Cleveland confined disposal facilities at full federal expense as supported by the Army Corps Federal Standard.”
The water quality certification complies with Governor Kasich’s executive order, signed on Feb. 11, 2015, which requires Ohio EPA to prohibit the open lake disposal of dredge material in Lake Erie if the dredge material could result in higher levels of a chemical in fish that bioaccumulates throughout the food chain, such as PCBs, or the disposal of dredge material would violate any international treaties or compacts. These requirements are part of the state’s Coastal Management Program, which is enforced through the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.
Ohio EPA did not authorize open-lake placement of the dredge material this year because, along with other reasons, the Agency has concerns about the potential of increased PCB bioaccumulation in fish. This is a concern because Lake Erie already has fish consumption advisories due to legacy PCB contamination and PCB bioaccumulation. The Agency also takes issue with the water quality certification application containing insufficient data to characterize the sediments and the proposal was contrary to the federal Great Lakes Testing Manual.
Ohio EPA will continue to work with the Corps, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and other interested parties to develop appropriate long-term strategies for managing, and the beneficial use of, material generated by future dredging activities.
Ohio EPA held a public meeting on Feb. 24, 2015, in Parma to discuss the issue and take public comments. Issuance of the final certification can be appealed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC).
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.