Following Call to Action by Brown, Portman, Army Corps Agrees to Dredge Cuyahoga River

Senators Will Continue Working to Ensure USACE Upholds its Commitment to Annual Dredging

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a letter from U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to end its irresponsible refusal to dredge the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, USACE announced it will dredge the Upper Reach of Cleveland Harbor and safely dispose of the sediment in a confined disposal facility. The senators, who met with USACE last week on this issue, have continuously urged USACE to dredge the shipping channel, will work to ensure USACE follows through on its commitment, and continues to dredge the river annually.

“The Army Corps of Engineers’ delay in dredging the Cleveland Harbor has already interrupted commerce in the area and it’s past time for the Corps to fulfill its obligation to maintain the Cuyahoga River shipping channel,” said Brown, who met with the Buffalo District of the USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division to press them on this issue last week. “I’m glad the Corps has answered our call to dredge the shipping channel and to safely dispose of the sediment in a way that protects the progress we’ve made in cleaning up Lake Erie. We’ll continue fighting to ensure the Corps upholds its longstanding obligation to the city and continues to dredge the river annually so businesses in the region can thrive.”

“I’m pleased that the Corps has finally acknowledged the need to dredge the Cleveland Harbor this year,” said Portman. “As we have said before, open lake placement of dredged material is unacceptable. Dredging the harbor channel is critical to jobs and the economy in Cleveland and northeast Ohio, and I hope this issue is resolved as quickly as possible. We’ll continue to use every tool available to make sure Lake Erie is protected.”

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. In fact, the Port supports over 18,000 jobs in the region. But in order for this to continue, the Great Lakes’ harbors and channels must be dredged in an environmentally acceptable manner. 

Full text of the letter is below.

September 23, 2016

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Assistant Secretary of the Army
Department of the Army, Civil Works
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy;

We write today urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill its responsibility and dredge the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, which has reached sediment levels above the authorized project limits. By refusing to dredge the channel, the Corps is putting at risk the 18,000 jobs that depend on the Port of Cleveland.

For the past 80 years, the Corps has dredged the Cuyahoga River to allow cargo ships to safely navigate the Cleveland Harbor. However to date, the Corps has refused to dredge the Cuyahoga River for the 2016 shipping season. This is despite the Corps’ own surveys that show significant portions of the river have sediment levels exceeding the congressionally authorized amount.

The Corps in April 20, 2016, recognized the shallow depths of the channel and advised vessel operators to use caution on the river. Since that time, sediment build up in the channel has only worsened.

The Corps’ decision not to dredge the ship channel threatens the businesses along the Cuyahoga River that are reliant upon maritime deliveries. High sediment levels have caused ships traveling up the channel to light-load by nearly 20% of their capacity, significantly increasing costs. For example, ArcelorMittal Cleveland, which President Obama visited in 2013 to highlight its important role in supplying steel for the automotive sector, receives 4-5 million tons of iron ore and limestone per year from ships traveling through the channel. Continued failure to dredge the river not only prohibits the ability to increase load amounts in the remaining 2016 shipping season, but also puts Spring 2017 dredging at risk. If ArcelorMittal Cleveland cannot receive the raw materials essential to its operations, the jobs of the more than 1,800 employees at the site will be at risk.

Annual dredging of the Cuyahoga River is essential for commercial cargo ships to safely navigate the Cleveland Harbor. It is imperative that the Cleveland Harbor remain accessible for commerce. We urge the Corps to dredge the Cuyahoga shipping channel to ensure safe and efficient transport of materials for the rest of the 2016 and early 2017 shipping seasons.

We look forward to your prompt response.