The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently received approval from the State Controlling Board to begin funding nearly $10 million in projects aimed toward helping to keep dredged material out of Lake Erie. These projects are part of Ohio’s “Healthy Lake Erie Fund” efforts and will be managed by local officials and sponsors from Toledo, Lorain and Conneaut, the communities where these monies are being invested. These projects represent a portion of Ohio’s dredged material management program developed jointly by the Ohio EPA, ODNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with input from local stakeholders.
“Lake Erie is Ohio’s greatest natural resource, and ensuring its health is vital for the continued success of the communities, businesses and families who depend on it,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “These projects represent a shared commitment between federal, state and local partners in helping to protect this great lake for generations.”
These projects will not only help improve and protect Lake Erie water quality, they will aid the navigation of vessels traveling in and out of the ports located in Toledo, Lorain and Conneaut. Dredged material removed from these Lake Erie ports will be beneficially reused to provide nutrient rich soil for use in construction and habitat restoration projects. This material will also be used to improve conditions at brownfield sites in these communities. By placing and repurposing dredged material at these soon to be constructed sites, the waters of Lake Erie will be improved by reducing nutrient and sediment loads into Lake Erie.
“These projects are part of Ohio EPA’s comprehensive strategy to manage nutrients entering Lake Erie. They demonstrate how we can repurpose material dredged from Lake Erie’s harbors and use them in beneficial ways and not simply dumping this nutrient laden material into Lake Erie,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. “I appreciate the widespread support these projects have from local stakeholders and the U.S. Army Corps.”
These projects will provide opportunities for local economic development and job creation through public-private partnerships and will support continued maintenance and operation of the federal navigation channels by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Additionally, these efforts address the requirement to utilize Healthy Lake Erie Funds to promote the beneficial use of dredge material and meet the July 1, 2020 ban on open-lake disposal of dredge material into Lake Erie.
The state continues to pursue additional projects along the Lake Erie coast that will help to improve water quality and restore nearshore and coastal habitats. This includes projects at each of the federal navigation channel harbors and a suite of projects that are being undertaken in the Sandusky Bay where dredge material will be beneficially reused to restore in-water wetlands and associated fisheries habitat.