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Under a sunny sky along the Maumee River shoreline, Gov. John Kasich said today that his administration's plan to put some of the Toledo shipping channel's dredged silt on Riverside Park - instead of into the open water of Lake Erie's Maumee Bay - is a big step toward the revitalization of Toledo.
Scientists have for years believed that dumping the silt into the lake has contributed to the lake's algae problem and impaired its valuable fishing habitat. While talking up the ecological benefits of the lake, the governor also implored Toledo Mayor Mike Collins to do what he can to promote more development along the Maumee River waterfront.
He said Toledo officials should follow the Pittsburgh example.
"Go to Pittsburgh," Mr. Kasich told Mr. Collins while a crowd of nearly 100 people listened. "Everybody wants to be along the river in Pittsburgh. I think we need to explode this area for economic development," he said, in reference to the riverfront.
The purpose of Mr. Kasich's visit, though, was to sign an agreement to use some of the shipping channel's dredged material for an agricultural research project the state and city plan to get under way later this summer at North Toledo's Riverside Park, a vacant site along the Maumee. About $6 million of the $10 million earmarked for experimental research with dredged material this year - the first time that's happened - will go to that project. Other research projects will be done at other sites along the lake, Craig Butler, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director, told The Blade after Mr. Kasich's presentation.
The park won't come close to receiving all silt the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges this summer, approximately 1 million cubic yards. That's more than enough to fill Toledo's largest skyscraper and a few other buildings. But perhaps 10 percent of the volume will end up on the site initially, with more to follow depending how the research goes, Mr. Butler said.
The goal is to use the research at that site to develop beneficial reuses for the material.
"If this can work, the program can be expanded," Mr. Kasich said.
Past governors from Michigan and Ohio have called for an end to the practice of open-lake disposal. None has had projects get this far.
"When it comes to this lake, I'm not going to take second place from anybody," Mr. Kasich said.
Capt. Paul Pacholski, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association president, called it a historic day.
The campaign supporting Mr. Kasich's gubernatorial opponent, Ed Fitzgerald, issued a statement on Mr. Fitzgerald's behalf critical of Mr. Kasich because he "failed to mention the $51.5 million lost to Lucas County through local government cuts and the untold impact on Toledo's energy economy through SB 310," a reference to controversial legislation Mr. Kasich recently signed into law which made Ohio's the first state in the nation to freeze requirements for utilities to invest more in renewable energy. The legislation was pushed by FirstEnergy Corp., as well as the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other utilities, against the objections of environmentalists and several major manufacturers involved in renewable energy, including Toledo-area Rudolph/Libbe, Inc.
"Governor Kasich's apparent 'concern' for Toledo and our economy is too little too late. For the last three years, he's cut $51.5 million from Lucas County through his tax shifting schemes and, as recently as this spring, he hurt our economy and middle class families by signing into law SB 310. We need a Governor who is invested in making Ohio work for Toledo's working people, not one who doesn't show up until it's election season," according to a statement attributed to Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb.