The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Wednesday that it had awarded a contract to dredge the Cuyahoga River, following a court order last week to do so.
The $3.7 million contract has been awarded to Ryba Marine Construction
, a company based in Cheboygan, Michigan. The work is expected to begin soon, though the Army Corps says it is still finalizing dates with the contractor.
The contract represents progress after months of gridlock and bickering between the Corps and the Ohio EPA
about who would pay for the dredging of the river. The Corps is responsible for maintaining the channel at a depth of 23 feet to keep commerce flowing — when the water is shallower, freighters need to unload cargo before they traverse the channel and shipments to ArcelorMittal are much smaller.
But the Corps' Federal Standard dictates that they should dump dredged material from the river into Lake Erie, a method the Corps says wouldn't harm the aquatic environment but which is vocally opposed by the Ohio EPA and the Port.
The estimated cost difference between open lake disposal and disposal in confined disposal facilities (CDFs) along the lake is $2.1 million, according to the Corps. The Corps has agreed to front the extra costs, but will be reimbursed if they win a case against the State of Ohio in Federal Court. If the state wins, the Corps will pay the additional costs.
Under the current contract, all material dredged from the river will be placed in a confined disposal facility.