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Great Lakes Article:

Army Corps plans to add berm at dike disposal site
By Kate Giammarise
The Morning Journal
Published November 22, 2006

LORAIN -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to build a berm around the dike disposal site on Lorain's waterfront, allowing them to continue using the site to hold sediment dredged from the Black River.

In a presentation yesterday to the Lorain Port Authority, Corps officials outlined their plan to add the berm to the perimeter of the site in 2007.

Michele Hope, project manager for the Corps's Buffalo District, which includes Northeast Ohio, said the berm will be constructed out of the dirt and dredged materials already on the site, allowing vegetation to grow on the berm.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges the river every two years and deposits the collected silt, sand and other materials at the disposal site. Much of the material collected doesn't meet federal guidelines to be put into Lake Erie, Hope said, so it must be left at the disposal site.

Dredging the river and having the disposal site are key to maintaining Lorain's status as a commercial port. The river must be dredged to allow large commercial vessels to pass through it -- for instance, ships going to and from the steel mill.

''(The disposal site) is very critical to us,'' said Rick Novak, executive director of the Lorain Port Authority.

Hope elaborated, ''Without dredging, the navigation channel would progressively shoal in and impede commercial navigation. Deep-draft commercial navigation would become economically nonviable and would gradually cease.''

The 58-acre disposal site was built in 1978 to hold 1.85 million cubic yards of material. Since dredging in the summer of 2006, the site is approaching being completely full, Hope said. Adding the berm next summer will allow the river to be dredged again in 2008, she explained.

But adding the berm to the disposal site is just a temporary fix, Hope said. The berm could potentially be added to several times to make it higher and extend its usefulness for several more years.

However, adding to the berm could potentially impede future plans for the site, such as a possible collaboration with the Lorain County Metro Parks.

Parks Director Dan Martin said he doesn't have a problem with the Corps adding the four-foot tall berm next summer, but he would oppose the berm being raised or added to after that.

Adding to the berm once or twice will create a tiered, ''wedding cake'' effect, Martin said.

''Then what have you got? What can you use it for?'' he said.

The Lorain Port Authority and Lorain County Metro Parks have discussed plans for using the site after it is completely full.

Though now the site is muddy and covered with vegetation, Hope said, it could be used once the Corps is no longer disposing of materials there.

Martin said under federal guidelines, one third of the site must remain in its natural state. Other areas could be economically developed or developed for public use, with amenities such as an amphitheater or aquarium. The Corps has made sure enough space has been reserved for all of those options, Martin said.

However, at some point, a new disposal site will have to be found.

Officials said the best option for a new site to put dredgings appears to be upriver, on land the city is trying to obtain from the now-bankrupt steel company Republic Technologies International.

''In the long term, we'd like to dump upriver,'' said Mayor Craig Foltin. ''Because of the slag fields there, it's fairly containable and wouldn't pose any harm.''

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