Bill to halt lake dumping

State Sen. Gardner authors measure to deal with open dumping on Lake Erie.
Tom Jackson
Dec 20, 2013
Environmentalists are unhappy about open lake dumping in Lake Erie.

State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, says he hopes his measure will do something to help with the problem.

The Army Corps of Engineers dredges shipping channels in Lake Erie’s harbors to keep the shipping lanes open. The material is then put back in the lake. The dirt clouds the water and is believed to add to Lake Erie’s harmful algal bloom problem.

Gardner has amended Senate Bill 150, a bill that deals with fertilizer regulation, to add $1.6 million to help deal with dirt in Lake Erie.

Part of the money, Gardner said, would go to soil and water conservation districts for conservation practices that lessen the amount of dirt carried away from farm fields by water runoffs. And part of it would go to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources specifically to deal with open lake dumping, to treat the materials or mitigate the problem. It’s not new money but is redirected from an account where it’s not being used, Gardner said.

Gardner said he hopes a solution will be found so that the Army Corps of Engineers will deposit the dredged material somewhere on land rather than in the lake.

“If we provide another option that’s environmentally smart and doesn’t cost the federal government money, we would expect the Army Corps to be supportive,” he said. “That’s why we don’t impose a mandate or solution. We simply set it (the funds) aside and say it’s available, if we can do something more meaningful with it”

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ office in Buffalo, N.Y., said the Corps is sensitive to environmental issues.

“The Corps of Engineers is committed to working with stakeholders in an open and transparent way to develop technically sound, economically justified and environmentally sustainable solutions,” said Bruce Sanders, a public affairs officer.

Senate Bill 150 is designed to help combat the harmful algal bloom problem by giving the state the power to regulate application of fertilizer, so that farmers will properly apply fertilizer and avoid having phosphorus run into the lake.

The measure is still in committee. Gardner said he’s not a member of the committee and has withheld judgment on the bill until it gets to the Senate floor. He said he expects the measure to be approved in committee next month.

Jeffrey Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant program, said from 800,000 to 1.2 million cubic yards of dredged dirt is placed in the lake each year. It makes the water less clear, reduces the ability of rooted aquatic material to grow and covers areas where fish would spawn, he said.

While a single cubic yard of dirt may have only a low amount of phosphorus, the cumulative effect of all of that material likely adds to the phosphorus content in the water and contributes to harmful algal blooms, Reutter said.

“It would be very good for the ecosystem if we didn’t do that” he said.

Reutter said Sea Grant is working on a project now to come up with a solution.

Comments

AJ Oliver

Hey Tom - Sorry for the thread drift, but the freighter pictured here appears to have been stuck or aground in the Bay yesterday. What's the story?

2cents's picture
2cents

“all of that material likely adds to the phosphorus content in the water”

I do not believe in this theory. First, phosphor is deposited in the water from the feeding waterways so how is their more phosphors in the dredged material alone? It would also make sense that there would be less contamination in the dredged material because the dredged material would have been replaced by new material that flowed into the channel base, not having time to acuminate contaminates.

I also thought that the deposit sites like the one in Huron is used only to deposit polluted dredging’s?

If they are concerned about clouding of the waters, why not develop new dredging’s release equipment? For example a flat tube that would ride across the bottom and release the material close to the bottom of the lake, thus taking less distance and time to settle.

I think this whole thing may be more based on sport fishing or other reasons that some do not like cloudy water.

If we do not deposit dredging’s in the lake, do you have a clue how expensive it would be to haul them upland? This was done at the Sadler Sailing Basin and the public complaints were well documented as truckloads of slimy silt were trucked. Can you even imagine an entire channel being trucked?

I think this is a political dream, good luck!

fenderstrat52

I agree with 2cents. I am concerned about the phosphorus in the lake. One thing I am not clear on, in the runoff, is the phosphorus in a liquid state in the water or is it still a type of solid mixed in with what dirt there is? I guess I am confused about how a material that is essentially taken from the lake and just moved and put back in the lake presents a problem. I'm no expert but doesn't what ever bottom material in the lake, no matter if it is dirt, sand, anything, move in natural current and directions dictated by storms? As far as putting dredged material on land, is that not just helping the cycle to repeat itself? Rain is going to wash over that also isn't it? Just call me a little confused. Can anyone shed a little light on this?