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Published: Saturday, 9/19/2009

Port vexed over dredging

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers falls farther and farther behind on dredging shipping channels in the Port of Toledo, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has decided to try to take the matter into its own hands - if it can get a $10.8 million federal grant to pay for equipment.

Funds for a hydraulic dredge, tugs, scows, a dewatering system, and other machinery are in one of nine grant requests for federal economic stimulus funding sought by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The agency applied for the money through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery discretionary account.

According to a port authority fact sheet in support of that application, the Corps of Engineers has a backlog of 4 million cubic yards of sediment in Toledo's channels that needs removal to ensure safe operation of ships in the Maumee River.

The Corps has rated the Port of Toledo as having "critical" dredge management issues, meaning that channel could become restricted within five years if corrective measures are not taken, the port authority said.

Because of funding constraints, the Corps only dredges about 635,000 cubic yards of sediment annually, even though the river's currents deposit about 1.4 million cubic yards annually in the channels.

"Inadequate dredging threatens the economic competitiveness of the Port of Toledo in the short term, and the viability of the port in the long term," the port authority statement said.

Funding decisions from the U.S. Department of Transportation are expected by Feb. 17.

The port authority said it would be able to solicit bids, obtain equipment, and begin dredging Toledo's channels later next year if the dredging grant is awarded.

The nine grants for which ODOT applied, totaling $588 million, include two others for northwest Ohio projects, plus another that likely would benefit the state's northwestern corner.

The largest single grant request, $258 million, is a multistate application for federal funds to support CSX Transportation Corp.'s proposed National Gateway. The project involves raising or replacing bridges and enlarging tunnels along railroads linking the Atlantic Coast and the Midwest to permit operation of double-stacked container trains on those lines.

Destinations for such trains would include a new intermodal terminal near North Baltimore, Ohio, that CSX is building.

The two other projects specific to northwest Ohio include $60.2 million to build a 9,000-foot runway and other logistics facilities at the Plum Brook Aerospace Station near Sandusky and $8 million to build railroad access to a proposed 1,600-acre industrial park near Van Wert.

Also on the ODOT list are grant requests to support construction of passenger railcars in Ohio and the purchase of ecologically modern buses for Ohio transit systems. Backers say the transit request could attract a bus manufacturer to the state, plus three major highway projects near Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.



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