Supported by bipartisan Congressional coalition, updates would protect Lake Erie from potential environmental contamination

Cleveland, Ohio - The Port of Cleveland recently petitioned the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to modify the description of the Cleveland Harbor navigation project in law to prevent sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga River from being placed in Lake Erie. That request has now been supported by a bipartisan group of six US Congressional Representatives from Ohio. The effort comes on the heels of a plan by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for open lake dumping of potentially contaminated river sediment in the open waters of Lake Erie.

To keep the Cuyahoga River deep enough for large commercial ships, up to 250,000 cubic yards of sediment must be dredged annually from the riverbed and harbor. Traditionally, sediment has been placed in confined disposal facilities (CDFs) due to concerns about contamination from the river’s historic industrial use and other sources. Although river sediments are now far less contaminated than in the past, recent testing still shows trace levels of the toxin PCB, which accumulates in the food chain, including Lake Erie fish.

To avoid the need for open lake dumping, the Port developed a viable, cost effective alternative plan to eliminate any need for open lake dumping through a combination of beneficial use and maximization of space in existing CDFs that are close to being at capacity. Despite the Port’s alternative, which previously was accepted by USACE as a cost-effective solution, and the Ohio EPA’s order for no open lake dumping under its authority via the Clean Water Act and Coastal Zone Management Act, the USACE has continued to push open lake dumping.

The Ohio General Assembly also recently passed a law banning all open lake dumping by 2020, and the Port’s request to modify federal policy would eliminate any potential conflict between state and federal policy.

“The Port’s goal is to align federal policy with State of Ohio law and achieve clarity on this critical water quality and public health issue, “ said Will Friedman, Port President and CEO. “The Port has developed safe and cost effective alternatives to open lake placement that should help make this decision even more straight forward, and we urge the Assistant Secretary to concur with our proposal.”

The Port’s petition was recently endorsed in a bipartisan Congressional letter of support led by Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11). Other Ohio Congressional representatives signed on include:

- Bob Gibbs, Republican, 7th District

- David Joyce, Republican, 14th District

- Marcy Kaptur, Democrat, 9th District

- James Renacci, Republican, 16th District; and

- Tim Ryan, Democrat, 13th District.

“We cannot gamble with the quality of Ohio’s water or our ecosystem,” said Congresswoman Fudge. “The Port’s proposal is necessary to keep Lake Erie safe while we keep Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga River open for business and supporting thousands of jobs.”