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Published: Monday, 7/27/2009

Bid delay holds up historic Ottawa River dredging project

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Delays in government bidding procedures have pushed back the timeline for crews to start mobilizing along the Ottawa River in preparation for the stream's historic $43 million restoration effort.

But Scott Cieniawski, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency environmental engineer coordinating the project, said he expects work to get back on schedule once the agency completes its preliminary review of bids by the middle of August.

The two-year dredging project - unprecedented for northwest Ohio and one of the largest of its kind in Great Lakes history - is expected to get under way in earnest by mid-October and to be completed by the end of 2010, Mr. Cieniawski said.

Until recently, the agency's latest timetable called for moving heavy equipment on site in mid-July.

This dredging differs from most in that it is not being done to accommodate ships. The purpose is to remove more than 275,000 cubic yards of sediment, about 95 percent of which will go into the city of Toledo's Hoffman Road landfill.

About 5 percent of the material, or 15,000 cubic yards of sediment, is believed to be so hotly contaminated by cancer-causing PCBs, PAHs, and other pollutants that it will be sent to specialized landfills.

The 260,000 cubic yards to go to the Hoffman Road landfill is a volume so large it is expected to use up about a year of the dump's capacity, worth about $5.6 million.

The city offered the space in lieu of $4 million in cash it didn't have.

The federal EPA has said fish and other wildlife are not likely to show tangible signs of recovery for two to three years.

Dredging makes rivers more turbid in the short term, increasing pollutant levels with suspended sediment.

The Ottawa has long been considered by state and federal environmental officials as Ohio's most polluted waterway.

For years, signs posted by the Ohio Department of Health have warned against fishing from the river or making body contact with the water.

The cost of the dredging is being split evenly between the federal government and a consortium of seven companies called the Ottawa River Group.

The latter put together a proposal after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated legal action against it and 13 other companies in 2004 .

The federal share is coming from funds appropriated by Congress through the Great Lakes Legacy Act. The act provides money for restoring Great Lakes rivers and harbors that contain polluted sediment.

The Toledo project is modeled after a larger one in Ashtabula, Ohio, in the northeast quadrant of the state.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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