Ohio EPA Reaches Decision on Cleveland Harbor Dredging

Ohio EPA has approved a request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Cleveland Harbor and Cuyahoga River – essential to allowing shipping traffic to continue – but with no dredged material to be placed in the open lake.

Ohio EPA’s Section 401 water quality certification allows the 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.

We expect USACE 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 an unacceptable risk to Lake Erie, all sediment should be disposed of in the Cleveland confined disposal facilities at full federal expense.”

The water quality certification complies with Ohio’s regulations prohibiting the open lake disposal of dredge material in Lake Erie if the dredge material would 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 determined that the Corps’ proposal would result in an increase in PCB bioaccumulation in fish.

The Agency 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 March 10, 2016, 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).