Representative Tim Ryan and Members of the Ohio Delegation in Letter to Prevent Sediment Dumping in Lake Erie

Nov 18, 2015 Issues: Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Tim Ryan (OH-13), Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-7), Congressman David P. Joyce (OH-14), and Congressman James Renacci (OH-16) urged the U.S. Army Corps expressing support for the Port of Cleveland’s plan modification to permanently stop sediment dumping in Lake Erie.  Following the recent dispute over how dredged material should be disposed of, the Port’s proposal would bring stability to this process and improve water quality for all Ohioans.

“The Port of Cleveland is the economic backbone of Northeast Ohio and critical to the wellbeing of the Great Lakes and our nation. I am proud to stand with the Port and my Congressional colleagues to ensure that one of our most vital resources is not being damaged by allowing dredged sediment to be dumped back into Lake Erie,” said Rep. Ryan.

 “The dumping of dredged sediment into Lake Erie is a hazardous process that could bring significant harm to our fishing, recreation, and shipping economies, as well as our drinking water.  I applaud the Port of Cleveland for proposing a plan to curtail this practice and provide a safer environment for everyone.  We must protect our water resources and sustain the growth and vitality of the Great Lakes region,” said Rep. Fudge.

“The Port of Cleveland system needs to be completely dredged every year. However, evidence has shown that dredged materials can contain dangerous legacy toxins that had been buried under rivers and lakebeds. Dumping these dredged materials directly into our lake threatens the safety of our drinking water and the ecosystems in and around Lake Erie, our most precious freshwater resource. Congress has already provided the funds needed to responsibly address this issue: keeping the port dredged and open for business without putting our lake further at risk,” said Rep. Kaptur.

“The Cleveland Harbor Project is a unique situation given the ecological sensitivity of Lake Erie. The health of the Cuyahoga River has come a long way, but the State of Ohio’s data shows there are still improvements to be made.  I do not believe that open-lake disposal for this project to be environmentally prudent. I urge the Corps to not consider it as an option for the Port of Cleveland,” said Rep. Gibbs.

"This is absolutely critical for Northeast Ohio. I’m glad we can all come together to support this request from the Port of Cleveland, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because jobs, the economy, and the health of Lake Erie rely on it," said Rep. Joyce.

“Dredging is an important tool to ensure commerce can easily move throughout northeast Ohio and the greater Great Lakes region.  I believe we need to listen to all stakeholders involved so our economy continues to grow for all Ohioans,” said Rep. Renacci.


Members of the Ohio Delegation sent the letter to army officials on November 13.  Read the text below:


Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, D.C.  20310-0108

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy:

We write today in support of a proposed project modification request pursuant to section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (128 Stat. 1360-1364) submitted by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority (“Port of Cleveland”) on September 23, 2015.

The project modification would clarify – for the Cleveland Harbor Project only – that the Federal standard mandating the use of the least costly, environmentally acceptable dredging plan not include placement of the dredged sediment into Lake Erie, unless approved by the State of Ohio under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.  The modification assures the continued federal maintenance of the Cleveland Harbor Project with upland confined placement of all dredged material.  This has been the method of dredged material management since the early 1970s.  Extensive study by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency determined sediment in the Federal channel remains contaminated, posing a potential threat to the local drinking water supply and the level of contaminants accumulating in the Lake’s aquatic populations.

The continued maintenance of the Cleveland Harbor Project is critical to the Great Lakes region and the nation.  Nearly 18,000 jobs and $1.8 billion of economic activity are tied to the approximately 15 million tons of cargo, primarily iron ore, limestone, steel, heavy machinery and equipment, moving through the Port of Cleveland and the Cuyahoga River channel each year.  The Port of Cleveland also provides the only regularly scheduled service to Europe for containerized and non-containerized cargo on the Great Lakes. 

The Port, working in conjunction with the State of Ohio, has been an innovative, national leader in creating a viable plan for intercepting commercially valued, bed-load material before it enters the Federal channel.  This program has the potential to reduce the annual volume of maintenance dredged material by as much as 15 percent.  The Port is also undertaking, as part of its Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) 12 capacity management plan, the harvesting of dredged material for reuse in community improvement and road construction projects.  Recycling the sediments will extend the useful life of the CDF and reduce the need to invest in new facility construction.

There has been a great deal of debate surrounding the placement of sediments dredged from Cleveland waters and uncertainty as to whether funded maintenance dredging will be completed on schedule each year.  Meanwhile, the concerns of the State and its citizens over the quality of Lake Erie have resulted in a policy decision to soon halt open water placement throughout the State.  We share these concerns and support the project modification request by the Port of Cleveland. We believe inclusion of this project modification in the upcoming annual “Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development” meets the 5 criteria under Section 7001(c)(1)(a) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.  This modification will avoid the yearly, unproductive standoffs threatening to injure a major economic engine for the region.  The Port should be allowed to continue managing sediments of questionable quality in confined disposal areas to ensure a safe, quality environment for the citizens of Northeast Ohio.

Thank for your attention to this proposal.

Sincerely,                                

Marcia L. Fudge                                                                     Bob Gibbs
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress                                  

Marcy Kaptur                                                                          David P. Joyce
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress

Tim Ryan                                                                                 James Renacci
Member of Congress                                                               Member of Congress