The inclusion of the money for the new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative was announced by state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. Gardner also spearheaded a similar Healthy Lake Erie Fund a few years ago that had $3 million to deal with water runoff issues.
The Army Corps of Engineers regularly dredges up dirt from Lake Erie and its navigable tributaries as part of its efforts to keep shipping channels open.
It has long been a sore point with environmentalists that the corps dumps the dirt back into the lake, instead of figuring out a way to deposit it on dry land. Environmentalists argue that open lake dumping pollutes the lake and helps generate harmful algal blooms.
The controversy heated up in recent weeks, after the announcement the Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin dumping contaminated dredge from the Cuyahoga River off Cleveland’s shore, near the intake valves that supply water for the city.
Gardner said the money will be used to explore ways to use dredged materials in useful ways, such as in preserving wetlands or putting it on farm fields.
Kristy Meyer, managing director of agricultural and clean water programs at the Ohio Environmental Council, said the initiative will go over well.
“I think it’s fantastic that Sen. Gardner is showing leadership on these issues,” she said. “I do think that this is a good amount of money to start talking about doing some pilot projects, exploring beneficial reuse a bit more, seeing if there are other opportunities”
The new Capital Appropriations Budget was introduced Tuesday in the Ohio House. Gardner said he expects the measure to speed quickly through the Ohio General Assembly.
The announcement from Gardner’s office includes a quotation from Ohio Department of Natural resource director Jim Zehringer, signaling the governor’s office is on board.
“Protecting Lake Erie remains a top priority for Gov. Kasich’s administration,” Zehringer said.
Gardner said he expects the bill to be approved and signed into law in the next two weeks.