COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced December 18 that the state has filed a request for a public hearing over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed plan to place dredged material from the Cleveland Harbor directly in Lake Erie.
Dredging ensures that water is deep enough for commercial cargo ships to safely navigate. For decades, the Corps has dredged the Cuyahoga River navigational channel and deposited the dredged material in on-land areas designated for toxic dredge material disposal.
This year, as it did a year ago, the Corps has proposed openly dumping some heavily contaminated dredged material into Lake Erie, despite the state’s concerns that the dumping would increase levels of carcinogenic toxins, including polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), harming fish and people as the toxins move up the food chain.
In the state’s request for a hearing, Attorney General DeWine writes: “The disposal of contaminated sediment from the Cleveland Harbor into Lake Erie would harm Ohio’s environment, is likely to violate Ohio’s water quality standards, and would jeopardize the health of Ohio’s citizens. Likewise, a failure or refusal to dredge would harm Ohio’s economy and the livelihood of many Ohio residents. Therefore, Ohio’s economic and environmental interests are in ensuring that the Cleveland Harbor is dredged and that contaminated dredged material is not placed in Lake Erie.”
In April, Attorney General DeWine, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig W. Butler, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer filed a lawsuit against the Corps for its 2015 dredging proposal. The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, is pending after the issuance of a preliminary injunction that required the Corps to dredge Cleveland Harbor but prevented the disposal of the material in the Lake.
Meanwhile, the Corps has submitted its proposal for the 2016 Cleveland Harbor dredging project. As a part of the administrative decision-making process, Ohio has the authority to submit comments to the Corps and to request a public hearing on the Corps’ decision.
A copy of the state’s request for a public hearing is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.