Beneficial Use Impairment 7:
Restrictions on Navigational Dredging Activities


What the delisting guidance says -

This BUI can be removed when there are no restrictions on navigational dredging or disposal activities due to contaminants in sediment, such that sediments are suitable for upland reuse/disposal, OR sediments meet Ohio EPA guidelines for open water disposal.



• Navigational dredging refers to dredging of a federally designated ship channel and historically dredged stretches of a river to enable the passage of commercial and/or recreational vessels. Restrictions to disposal activities refer to the prohibition of open lake disposal or upland re-use of dredged materials due to chemical contamination or biological toxicity of the sediment.

• This does not include the maintenance dredging of private marinas, slips, docks, etc.  However, if sediment contaminant concentrations in these areas are a source of contamination that precludes attainment of remedial dredging goals of federally designated ship channels and historically dredged stretches of a river, then dredging of private marinas, slips, docks, etc. may be necessary.


As of the latest analysis of dredged material, the Army Corps of Engineers' testing indicated that 20% of the sediment still does not meet their standards for open lake placement.


Progress toward delisting


The potential for delisting this BUI within the next year or so is quite high, as each year more of the dredged sediment is deemed suitable for upland reuse, whether for industrial, recreational or residential sites.

In 2013, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over dredging in the Cuyahoga River ship channel and carries out the dredging, determined that, using its sampling protocol and assessment, 80% of the sediment it dredged met the standard for open lake placement. The Corps' criteria is based on choosing the lowest cost alternative with the least environmental impact.

The Ohio EPA, which has jurisdiction over the permitting that would have allowed such placement, declined to issue the permit based on environmental concerns and questions as to the Corps' sampling methods and interpretation of the federal standard. The OEPA's criteria is based on environmental impact alone, and takes into account local community concerns.

Absent a permit for open lake placement of 2014 dredged sediment, the Corps agreed to continue to place 2014 dredge in the Contaminated Disposal Facility. However, it is the Corps' position that, for 2015 and going forward, the difference between the cost of CDF disposal (the local preference) and that of open lake placement (the Corps' preference) would have to be borne by the local stakeholders, to the tune of approximately $5 million.

The Dredge Task Force, which includes the Corps, the Port of Cleveland, Ohio EPA, U.S. EPA, the lake carriers that need the channel dredged in order to navigate through it, the businesses that need the carriers to be able to deliver their materials, the City of Cleveland and other stakeholders, meets on a regular basis.

A five-part strategy has been developed to manage both the dredged materials and the cost of disposal. Strategies includes reducing the frequency of dredging if depth of the channel allows; implementing a pilot project to place some of the material along the lakefront (not in the originally-proposed sites) for habitat and beach enhancement; negotiating acceptable strategies and costs for using the Port's CDFs and the Corps' CDFs; working toward reducing the amount of sediment entering the channel from upriver, and facilitating upland reuse of the sediment.

Delisting, however, is based on contaminant levels, not on the cost or feasibility of various disposal alternatives.

Considering that the State of Ohio restoration target allows delisting if the dredged sediment is either suitable for upland reuse/disposal OR meets the Ohio EPA guidelines for open water disposal, it is possible that this impairment could be removed in the next few years.

This product or publication was financed in part or totally through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, with funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The contents and views, including any opinions, findings, or conclusions or recommendations, contained in this product or publication are those of the authors and have not been subject to any U.S. EPA or Ohio EPA peer or administrative review and may not necessarily reflect the views of either Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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