In early January, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio EPA received approval to begin funding almost $10 million in dredging projects, as part of the state’s Healthy Lake Erie Fund. Three projects, with the Port of Toledo, the City of Lorain and the City of Conneaut, will use the funds to support confined disposal facilities, sediment processing, and the beneficial use of dredged material.
The State of Ohio has a hard deadline, July 1, 2020, when a ban on the open-lake placement of dredged material goes into effect. The state has already spent considerable funds investigating beneficial use and other placement options. In 2015, the first $10 million from the Healthy Lake Erie Fund helped spur innovation and research into alternatives. In April 2018, another $10 million went to beneficial use projects. For more on work done with those funds, read “Ohio State and Federal Agencies Look to Beneficial Use as Open-Lake Disposal Ban Approaches.”
The Healthy Lake Erie Fund has $20 million available, which comes from the State of Ohio bond fund. These are state Capital funds which are restricted to engineering, design, and construction expenditures. These funds may not be used for research or feasibility studies. In 2018, House Bill 529 and Senate Bill 299 were passed by the legislature to provide the latest round of Healthy Lake Erie funding. On December 3, 2018, the Ohio State Controlling Board approved $9.9 million for three projects.
The funds are managed by the ODNR Coastal Management program, which provides separate pass-through grant agreements with local sponsors for projects. “We don’t necessarily have the capacity for project management. We pass these funds through to a local entity,” said Scudder Mackey, chief of ODNR Office of Coastal Management. “This gives them a sense of ownership,” he added, as local community buy-in is important for project support and funding.
Projects: CDF Expansion, Sediment Processing, Brownfield Capping, Farm Field Applications and More
The program awarded the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority $1.9 million for planning, designing and upgrading the existing Facility 3 Confined Disposal Facility (CDF), owned and operated by the port.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers typically dredges 800,000 cubic yards of sediment a year from the Maumee River federal navigation channel. “For Ohio and the Great Lakes, that is the elephant in the room,” Mackey said.
With the 2020 deadline, many are wondering where all that material will go. The CDF upgrade project is looking to increase capacity and beneficial use options for that material.
Previously, dredged material was used to construct a second set of dikes at the CDF, inset from the outer dike, adjacent to the lake and armored to prevent erosion. The project, with an investment of $1.8 million from the initial Healthy Lake Erie Fund allocations, also increased the overall height of the dikes.
In this second phase, the second large dike will be separated into three containment cells, by installing two 2,100-foot cross dikes with drainage weirs and dewatering skimmers. The perimeter of the 235-acre Cell 1 area will also be raised, increasing the capacity of the containment area from 6.8 to 7.5 million cubic yards of dredged material. Overall, Mackey said the project will provide capacity for the placement of up to 1 million cubic yards of sediment per year from the Toledo Harbor federal navigation channel over the next six to 10 years.
The three cells will be used in stages. The first year, sediment will be placed in one area and overtime, will gradually dewater with help of the weirs and skimmers. The second year, sediment goes into a second area. By the third year, when material is placed in the third section, the first section of sediment should be dewatered or ready for processing.
“We are still working through alternative ways to move the material off-site to beneficial use projects,” Mackey said. At its current capacity, the CDF could accept at least six dredging cycles, before it would need to elevate the dikes or remove material off-site. One potential option, Mackey said, includes preliminary plans to hydraulically liquify and pump the material onto farm fields, south of the project location.
The City of Lorain will receive $4 million for planning, design, permitting and construction for the Black River Dredge Reuse Facility. It will be located on a 30-acre site within a larger reclamation facility, owned by the city on the south bank of the Black River. The facility will be designed to accept up to 150,000 cubic yards of dredged material per year from the Lorain Harbor federal navigation channel.
Mackey said the material will be offloaded, hydraulically placed and dewatered, with several options for beneficial use, including mixing the material for soil or wetland creation through a local Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) 204 project. Another option would be to process the sediment and use it to cap a large industrial brownfield area adjacent to the site. Mackey said preliminary calculations suggest that more than 30 years of dredged material from the federal navigation channel could be used to cap this brownfield site.
In the City of Conneaut, $4 million will be used for the Conneaut Creek Dredge Material Facility. Canadian National, which is the primary supplier of taconite to the steel mills in Pittsburgh, offered a portion of its land for the sediment processing facility. The site is located south of the mouth of Conneaut Creek and is adjacent to the Conneaut Harbor federal navigation channel. It will accept up to 75,000 cubic yards of sediment per year from the navigation channel.
“The proposed facility would be designed to provide sediment processing, soil blending and other potential uses of dredged material,” Mackey said. An adjacent brownfield area where significant volumes of dredged material could be placed as a soil cap may be another option.
Moving Forward; $10M More
The projects are underway, mostly with design and engineering. The Port of Toledo project, Mackey said, is not as time consuming. The project agreement runs through December 2020. That work should start late spring or early summer and should be completed in three to six months.
The other two projects at Lorain and Conneaut are more extensive, and those project agreements run through December 2021. Mackey said the agreements have adequate time for extensions, but he anticipates that the projects will be done in 1.5 to 2 years, in time for the 2020 deadline.
“We’re doing some innovative work here,” Mackey said. When the initial deadline for banning open-lake placement came down, areas of the state questioned whether they could meet that objective.
“We now feel confident that we will be able to meet that deadline,” Mackey said.
The remaining $10.1 million in the Healthy Lake Erie Fund will be allocated to other projects later this year. “We have a number of projects that have been identified for those dollars as well, but they are not as far along,” Mackey said. They include a CAP 204 project with the Port of Ashtabula for wetland creation. A project at Sandusky Bay is in the permitting process for a similar wetland beneficial use project. Mackey said three or four additional projects will receive funding later this spring or summer.