Brown, Portman Highlight Language in Senate-Passed Water Resources Bill that Will Protect Cleveland from Toxic Sediment

Bill now heads to the House of Representatives for Final Approval

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today announced the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) includes language that will help keep toxic material dredged from the Cuyahoga River out of Lake Erie. A provision of the bill makes clear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) cannot determine that dumping dredged material into Lake Erie is environmentally acceptable unless it meets the state of Ohio’s water quality standards. This will help the Port of Cleveland protect Lake Erie from the USACE’s repeated attempts to dispose of potentially harmful sediment into the Lake.

“Dredging of the Cuyahoga River is key to the Port of Cleveland’s continued support for local businesses and jobs and we must ensure that all dredging activity protects Lake Erie,” said Brown. “This provision will make it clear that the Corp must follow state water quality standards. This will help the Port of Cleveland and Ohio EPA keep toxic sediment out of the Lake and I urge the House to move quickly.”

“The Cleveland Harbor project is vital to all of Ohio not only ecologically, but economically as well,” said Senator Portman. “This provision ensures dredged material will not harm either the City of Cleveland’s water supply or Lake Erie’s ecosystem. I will use every tool available to make sure our Great Lake is protected and urge my colleagues in the House to move quickly to get this to the President for signature.”

The provision of WRDA means that the Corps must follow Ohio’s water quality standards when determining how to dispose of the dredged material.

According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. Further, the Great Lakes play a vital role in transporting food, raw materials, and other goods necessary to support Ohio jobs. But in order for this to continue, the Great Lakes’ harbors and channels must be dredged in an environmentally acceptable manner. 

In January 2016, Brown and Portman urged USACE Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy to use at least $2 million of its $273 million unallocated operation and maintenance budget to make up for its irresponsible request for less money to dredge the Cleveland Harbor. The Corps requested $3.6 million less than the President’s budget, which will not be sufficient to safely place the dredged material upland. Brown and Portman’s letter urged the Corps to respect the State’s Water Quality Standards and pay for the cost of disposing of the toxic dredged material responsibly rather than dumping it into Lake Erie.

In February 2015, Brown and Portman wrote to Assistant Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Engineers at USACE calling for full funding of Great Lakes navigation projects and to direct additional resources to address a significant dredging backlog.