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Published: Tuesday, 6/6/2006

Taft, U.S. kick off $50M river project


ASHTABULA, Ohio - Gov. Bob Taft joined U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in this northeastern Ohio city yesterday to dedicate a three-year, $50 million dredging project designed to help Lake Erie by restoring one of Ohio's most polluted rivers.

The Ashtabula River, a Lake Erie tributary, had long been thought of as Ohio's worst hotspot for cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, until an even worse spot was discovered along a small, 975-foot unnamed North Toledo tributary of the Ottawa River.

The Ottawa River tributary was temporarily shut off, cleaned up, and rechanneled at a cost of $5 million several years ago.

In 1999, it was named Fraleigh Creek in honor of a University of Toledo ecologist, the late Peter Fraleigh.

Mr. Fraleigh founded the Maumee Bay Watershed Project that has been used to give thousands of northwest Ohio students experience in sampling waterways.

The Ashtabula River project is Ohio's first to be funded under the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002.

Authored by U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio), the act allows the government to spend up to $50 million a year on Great Lakes sediment projects through 2008.

The same source of funding has been eyed by Toledo area officials for continued improvements along the Ottawa River.

The Ashtabula project will include the removal of 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, many times more than what was removed from Fraleigh Creek.

Half of the $50 million price tag is being covered by the federal government under the Legacy Act.

The other $25 million is to come from nonfederal sources. That figure includes $7 million from Ohio.

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