U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, along with Reps. Bob Gibbs, Dave Joyce, and Marcy Kaptur, urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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. Portman, Brown, 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.
Press Release, March 31, 2014