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Great Lakes Article:

Putting curbs on the Cuyahoga River
By John C. Kuehner
The Plain Dealer
Published November 11, 2006

Planners want to launch a project that will explore whether fish and ore boats can coexist on the Cuyahoga River.

What they want to create is a stream bank that offers habitat for fish migrating from Lake Erie to spawning areas upriver while also allowing for ship movement.

But the vision goes beyond just helping restore the health of the Cuyahoga River.

What planners hope to design is a new generation of inexpensive stream-bank curbs that can be manufactured in the Cuyahoga Valley and create jobs here.

A successful product then could be sold to other Great Lakes port cities that face the same problems of protecting local industrial ship traffic and helping fish, said Jim White, who heads the Cuyahoga River Remedial Action Plan, which will lead the design and development process.

"Given the cost of replacing bulkheads, it's a several hundred million, if not a $1 billion, marketplace," White said.

The Cuyahoga River alone has 11 miles of bulkheads that line both sides of the stream bank from Lake Erie to the Mittal Steel USA Cleveland plant to a depth of about 22 feet.

And many of these aging bulkheads are failing, which causes the river bank to erode into the river. Ignoring the problem "will result in catastrophic failure and potential closing of the river," according of the Flats Oxbow Association, which represents industrial and business interests in the Flats.

It's estimated it would cost $300 million to replace the river's steel and wood bulkheads.

Those bulkheads were built in the 1930s.

The bill must be paid by the riverfront landowner.

Earlier this year, the federal government awarded $500,000 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a bulkhead prototype project.

The Corps is in the final stages of negotiations to release the money to local planners, White said.

Once the money is available, which could be later this month, White said a group of materials specialists, local engineers, manufacturers and installers will design the product.

He hopes to have three different prototypes that will be tested at three different points in the river.

These "green bulkheads" would have open slots that create pockets behind them where plants can grow and fish could feed and find refuge as they swim to and from Lake Erie.

One proposed idea is to build a troughlike molded concrete structure using surplus slag from Mittal Steel, which is working with planners on the project and could host one of the prototypes.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jkuehner@plaind.com, 216-999-5325

 

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