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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

Action seeks to stop deposit of dredgings in Lake Erie

Four environmental groups, with help from the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, said Tueday they have initiated legal action against the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The groups hope a state board will nullify the permit the Ohio EPA issued that will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dump up to 800,000 cubic yards of sediment dredged from the Toledo shipping channel into western Lake Erie this summer.

The National Wildlife Federation, the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, the Izaak Walton League of America, and the Ohio Environmental Council say in their filing that it's an unsound environmental practice for that much dredged sediment to be redeposited in such valuable fish habitat.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 10 in front of the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission, the state board with the power to overturn Ohio EPA decisions.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a solution that keeps the Port of Toledo open, while protecting Lake Erie and the millions of people who depend on it for drinking water, fishing, recreation, and their way of life. We can do better than this," Neil Kagan, senior attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said.

The Corps is not in violation of state or federal law for such dumping, although governors, environmental regulators, and fish managers from Michigan and Ohio have been trying for years to get it to phase out the practice. Scientists have said the practice hurts fish reproduction and promotes algae growth.

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