Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
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Toledo dredging project delayed until community can be informed

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The former Riverside Park in Toledo, now piled with dirt and broken concrete, would be used as a test site for redepositing tons of silt dredged from the Toledo shipping channel then finding other uses for it.

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A Toledo City Council committee will delay endorsing a project to develop alternatives to dredging so committee members can talk more with the North Toledo residents who live near the park who will be affected by the experiment.

Council’s utilities and public service committee on Monday decided to hold back for two weeks on endorsing the historic, $6 million project.

The project would use North Toledo’s Riverside Park as a test site for redepositing tons of silt dredged from the Toledo shipping channel, then finding other uses for it, such as landfill cover or farm soil.

Great Lakes scientists have implored the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find a beneficial re-use of the dredged material since the 1980s, claiming it makes the water more turbid. That, they said, contributes to the region’s algae problem and impacts fish habitat. The sediment contains phosphorus, the fertilizer that helps algae grow.

Councilman Lindsay Webb, the committee’s chairman, said she was ready to send the resolution to the full council in time for today’s regular meeting. She said she believed the public would still have plenty of time to weigh in.

But other committee members said they felt uncomfortable doing that because there had been no meeting with community groups.

Toledo is the most heavily dredged port in the Great Lakes region because of its shallowness. The Corps dredges 800,000 to 1 million cubic feet of silt each summer, enough fill downtown Toledo’s tallest high-rise building three times. The 32-story Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate is 411 feet tall.

All of that silt in recent years has been dumped into the open water of western Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay.

“This becomes a recurring theme for our community about what to do with the dredged material,” Ms. Webb said.

Terry Glazer, United North Community Development Corp. executive director, said residents need to be informed before the committee acts on it.

Officials said the funding came through faster than expected. It is part of a $10 million special appropriation called the Healthy Lake Erie Initiative, which Ohio Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) got the Kasich administration to endorse for such research.

Some of that money is going to Cleveland to address open-lake disposal issues there. Other communities, in response to the Toledo water crisis, are now expressing an interest, officials said.

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