In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the USACE to explore alternatives to disposal of dredged sediment in Lake Erie.
The senators called for an independent assessment to determine the practice’s impact on water quality, the ecosystem, and Ohio’s shipping industry.
“While we must dredge the Cuyahoga River, we must also ensure that we’re not compromising the health of Lake Erie,” Portman stated. “I look forward to working for a solution with the Army Corps that fully satisfies local stakeholders.”
“Millions of Ohioans rely on Lake Erie for drinking water and the fishing, boating, and recreation jobs that depend on clean and safe waters,” Brown said. “While dredging of the Cuyahoga River is critical for the region’s economy, we can’t compromise efforts to improve water quality and restore the health of the lake. That’s why I’ll continue working to maintain the navigation channel while ending the practice of open-lake dumping and ensuring the ongoing recovery of Lake Erie.”
The Port of Cleveland has proposed placing the sediment in existing confined disposal facilities (CDFs) as an alternative to open-lake dumping. Despite objections from the port and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), the USACE is moving forward with plans to dump dredged sediment in Lake Erie.
The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Environmental Laboratory produced a document to respond to these concerns but ultimately rejected the CDF proposal and downplayed any environmental concerns.
The senators pointed to studies that have shown toxins in sediment can contribute to a loss of oxygen in the lake’s bottom layer – creating an environment conducive to the growth of toxic algal blooms. This is particularly troubling in light of the water crisis in Toledo this summer – where open-lake dumping is common practice – which tainted drinking water for 500,000 people.