Fishing for walleye, not cargo containers in Sandusky Bay

DANBURY TWP. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard could soon butt heads ove
May 24, 2010



The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Coast Guard could soon butt heads over the removal of rail cars and cargocontainers from Sandusky Bay.

ODNR's Division of Wildlife and the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Toledo are expected to meet today to plan for removal of11 cargo containers and fiveflatbed rail cars that were blown into the bay by fierce winds inJanuary.

The rail cars and containers were supposed to be removed Monday, but ODNR believed their removal could interfere with the spawning of the Lake Erie walleye, saidLt. Commander Rick Minnich of the Marine Safety Unit.

ODNR officials did not return calls Monday.

The rail cars and containers need to be removed so they do notdisrupt spring boat traffic,Minnich said.

"There's definitely a navigational hazard once small boats start running again," Minnich said. "They're basically trash in the water."

They could have been removed earlier, but ice prevented any boats from getting through, said Shawn Bickley, of Shepherd's Shoreline Construction, a Sandusky-based subcontractor hired to remove the rail objects.

"Now that the ice is gone, they've got the opportunity to do it," Minnich said. "We just have to get the ODNR to approve it."

If ODNR gets its way, the cargo containers will be removed over the course of two weeks beginning May 1, Bickley said.

The 7-ton containers will be taken to land via a barge and boat with a 30-ton crane.

The flatbed rail cars may not be removed until July 1 after the walleye have made their trip through Sandusky Bay, Bickley said. The delay could be necessary because the coupled cars must be cut by a torch, and the high air pressure and heat from the torch could disturb the fish.

Even though the rail objects represent a "navigational hazard," boaters will be able to see them at night because they are marked with solar-powered lights, Bickley said.

Bickley said he's neutral on when the containers should be removed.

"If they want us to go, we'll go," Bickley said. "We do what they tell us to do."

Today's meeting will include the Coast Guard, ODNR, Norfolk Southern and St. Louis-based contractor Quality Rail.

A wind gust of 58 mph contributed to the Jan. 30 train derailment, which closed the track for several hours. No one was hurt.

A similar train derailment occurred five years ago, a Norfolk Southern official said.