Senator Rob Portman tours Cleveland port as Senate begins inquiry into Army Corps’ budget cuts

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority hosted U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) March 31 to discuss the Senate’s inquiry into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ self-imposed budget cut and its continued efforts to place potentially harmful sediment into the open waters of Lake Erie.

Senator Portman chairs the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which recently began examining the Corps’ role in the sudden cut of more than $3 million from the federal dredging budget for the Port of Cleveland.

“Today’s meeting with leaders of the Port of Cleveland was very productive and provided important insight into allegations my subcommittee is investigating that the Army Corps of Engineers deliberately reduced its budget for the harbor dredging project to ensure it would be unable to dispose of material responsibly,” said Senator Portman. “This issue affects not just the environmental well-being of Lake Erie, but also the economy of our region. As someone who has worked to restore Lake Erie and address the pollution and contamination in the lake, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure the Corps fulfills its responsibility. I want answers and will work with my partners at the Port of Cleveland to use every tool available to make sure our Great Lake is protected.”

The Corps has argued that open lake dumping of river sediment found to contain some levels harmful chemicals is safe. Meanwhile, the port and other stakeholders, including the Ohio EPA, have consistently opposed open lake disposal of the sediment.

During Senator Portman’s visit, the port provided a tour of its docks and facilities, including the confined disposal facility (CDF), where the port is prepared to receive sediment from this year’s dredging. Port leaders showed Senator Portman alternative methods to open lake disposal, which safely manage and beneficially use the sediment while keeping Cleveland Harbor open for business.

“The economic impact of Cleveland’s maritime industry is immense—$1.8 billion in economic activity and 18,000 jobs depend on it. Equally important are the health and welfare of our water and wildlife,” said Will Friedman, Port of Cleveland President and CEO. “The Port of Cleveland appreciates Senator Portman’s leadership on this issue. We were glad to host him and provide important information, and eagerly await the results of the Senate Subcommittee’s inquiry into the propriety of the dredging budget cut.”

Maritime Editorial