Better dredging needed on lake

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur says that when a Canadian ship ran aground in Sandusky Bay last month, it helped make her point that dredging of Lake Erie’s shipping channels and harbors is being neglected.
Tom Jackson
Dec 12, 2013


“I could use a good photo,” Kaptur said Tuesday. “I could take it to the floor”

The CSL Niagara ran aground on Nov. 17 and had to be helped away by tugboats.

Kaptur and other lawmakers from the area are hoping Great Lakes dredging will get more attention soon.

Kaptur signed a letter from Great Lakes lawmakers asking a conference committee writing the final version of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act to include a provision giving direction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The language tells the agency to treat the lakes as one system, rather than a collection of ports.

The committee agreed to the request, a key goal of the Lake Carriers Association, a rade group representing the Great Lakes shipping industry. The association is located in Rocky River, in Kaptur’s district.

The Army Corps treats the Mississippi River as a system, and Great Lakes backers hope designating the Great Lakes as a system, too, will send more money to maintain Great Lakes shipping.

“They spend the least amount of money in our part of the country,” said Kaptur, who said she had just met with the Army Corps’ associate director to discuss dredging.

Dredging in Sandusky’s harbor is about 800,000 cubic yards behind what it should be, according to figures supplied by the Lake Carriers Association.

Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers Association, said he doesn’t know the particulars of the Niagara incident, but said, “There’s no denying there’s a dredging crisis on the Great Lakes”

Lack of dredging means shipping channels and harbors are too shallow, and that means cargo ships on Lake Erie and other lakes aren’t carrying all of the cargo they could, Nekvasil said.

Ships lose 50 to 270 tons of cargo for each inch of draft they give up, he said.

“We are vastly underutilizing the capacity of the system” he said.

Dredging the Great Lakes properly would mean that ships could carry more cargo without having to add crew or burn more fuel, he said.

The big cargo ships on the Great Lakes get about 600 miles per gallon, so shipping goods on water is cheaper and better for the environment than any other kind of transportation, he said.

He said the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund takes in $1.6 billion a year from taxes on cargo but spends only about half that.

“It’s kind of like pulling up on a toll booth and paying your toll and being told the speed limit is no longer 60, it’s 30” he said.


Señor Clown

“It’s kind of like pulling up on a toll booth and paying your toll and being told the speed limit is no longer 60, it’s 30"

Yup, that's exactly what this is like.


It's being neglected because politicians such as herself are too busy throwing money at the unproductive and at foreign countries to worry about infrastructure improvements.


Lake Erie is suffering from decades of pollution and there's an incredible amount of contanaments that are sitting on the floor of the channels and harbors. Stirring them up makes the lakes problems much worse. Researchers have provided our leaders with tons of information, including the impacts from dredging.

Kaptur has ordered her fair share of studies regarding Lake Erie's health issues. Maybe she should read them before speaking on this topic.

Better yet, go ahead and dredge it only if Kaptur agrees to swim in the area afterwards


All blow and no go! Just like every other politician!

Good 2 B Me

The CSL Niagra ran aground after sustained winds from the South, forcing water to leave our shorline, which in return causes the water levels to drop during that process.

Dredging would not have had anything to do with that.


"Cargo ships get 600 miles per gallon"? That's even better than the RR.
Maybe closer to .6 mpg.

AJ Oliver

Yup, I think that should be 600 MPG per TON OF CARGO. And another "yup"; they need to figure out a way to dispose of the spoils that does not pollute the lake - dumping it in open water, as they are doing now, is a terrible practice.


Ton-miles per gallon, i.e. to go a mile takes one gallon of fuel for every 600 tons of gross weight (vessel plus cargo.) Which works out to less than 1 mpg for an empty ship.

It was nice when journalists thought getting such details right was more important than stroking the readers' emotions.

Don Lee

There's this spoils site that's been sitting half-full at Huron for years because the river spoils have supposedly been not dirty enough ...

Peninsula Pundit

All good points above, but shouldn't the corporations who benefit from the deeper channels pay for the dredging, instead of the American Taxpayer?
Where are all my fellow taxpayers who watch so vigilantly to make sure $300 a week does not go to undeserving individuals, but don't bat an eye at this corporate welfare?
Double Standard?


You don't think shipping companies pay taxes? Do you pay a direct fee for every piece of public infrastructure YOU use?

Peninsula Pundit

What taxes do the Canadian Shipping Lines (the CSL Niagara) pay, smart guy? And I'm more than certain that smart accountants make sure the American shipping lines don't pay either. You're off base in a couple directions. The Supreme Court may consider corporations the same as you or I, but everyone really knows that's a bunch of hooey.


Well, let's see.... Bloomberg publishes a portfolio of advice regarding the taxes they must pay. I'm not willing to pay $400 for it, but apparently these companies are, so the taxes must be a significant part of their business. Regardless, the mining company and railroads AND THEIR EMPLOYEES, whose livelihoods are dependent on those ships getting in and out of the bay, pay plenty of taxes.

Without the legal doctrines that allow corporations to be treated and act, to a limited extent, as persons, we would still have a pre-industrial economy like many third world backwaters.

We all pay into a common pool of taxes to maintain general infrastructure available equally to all of us. If you'd prefer a more direct fee for service model for infrastructure, as your initial comment implies, bring it on - let's privatize all the roads and you can pay directly for each mile you drive. Your class warfare rhetoric is strongly indicative that you'd end up paying more, not less, under such a model.

T. A. Schwanger


Where did she run aground at? The entrance to the bay at the tip of the sandbar?

Peninsula Pundit

Actually, a dead bearing off the Cedar Point Breakwall. I didn't realize it was so shallow out there.


The water level in the bay can drop 4 feet in a few hours when the wind is blowing out of the southwest. In some cases the "beach" just east of they eastern Huron city limits has been known to go from 0 to 200 feet wide in the space of an afternoon.