Why is Toledo allowing the Corps of Engineers to dump sediment in Lake Erie? When will it be fixed?
The City of Toledo lacks the authority to determine if the Corps of Engineers is permitted to open lake dispose of sediment in Lake Erie. The authority instead is a combination of the Corps of Engineers and the EPA based upon Section 404 and Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The Corps has determined that open lake disposal is suitable for most of the sediment dredged from Toledo Harbor but this determination requires the concurrence of Ohio EPA through Section 401. The Ohio EPA has consistently opposed open lake disposal since 1987 but discontinuing open lake disposal requires an alternative location for dredge material placement or the Port would not be maintained to a depth to allow ship traffic. On April 15, 2010, the Ohio EPA issued a 401 certification to the Corps of Engineers that limited the scope of the dredging request to one year and 800,000 cubic yards while asking for alternatives including interim steps to lessen the impact of open lake disposal while developing longer term alternatives. Director Chris Korleski of OEPA stated: “While I certainly feel compelled to keep the port functioning, I cannot overstate my concerns about the environmental impacts likely resulting from the annual disposal of large amounts of sediment in the shallow western basin of Lake Erie”. Director Korleski and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Sean Logan expressed in a letter to the Corps the need to seek a feasible alternative to open lake disposal. They note that while open lake disposal may be the most cost-efficient option for the Corps, the real dollar costs to communities in the Western Basin resulting from environmental impacts, lake recreation and drinking water treatment, while difficult to calculate, and are not adequately being considered. There is more information available from the Ohio EPA at the following website: [ http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/401/toledo_dredging_apr10.aspx ]http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/401/toledo_dredging_apr10.aspx
The timing of a fix is uncertain. Several efforts to develop alternatives have been undertaken by the Corps of Engineers and others. The most recent activity has been the development of a Toledo Harbor Dredging Task Force and the intent of that Task Force to develop alternatives for managing Toledo Harbor sediment. A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (USEPA) grant of $250,000 has recently been awarded to the Ohio Lake Erie Commission for this work which is to be completed by June 2012. In the meantime, efforts are underway to develop interim solutions to the problems while a longer term solution is identified, funded and implemented.
Ed Hammett, Ohio Lake Erie Commission