An amendment that would end open lake dumping of dredged materials in Lake Erie has been approved by the Ohio Senate.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) also re-appropriates about $1.6 million for conservation practices in the counties of the lake’s western basin.
Gardner last week said open lake dumping of dredged materials may be a factor in the formation of large algal blooms.
“Lake Erie is one of Ohio’s most important natural assets,” he said. “Open lake dumping of dredge materials is one of several factors we believe are contributing to algae problems in Lake Erie. We must be more aggressive in our efforts to clean up the lake.”
He noted this year saw the second-worst algal bloom season on record.
Kristy Meyer, managing director of agricultural, health and clean water programs at the Ohio Environmental Council, said the amendment tries to strike a balance.
"Senator Gardner's amendment offers a practical bridge between the need to dredge the Toledo Harbor with the need to protect Lake Erie from harmful dredge material," she said.
The amendment is attached to Senate Bill 150, which revises polices aimed at reducing agricultural pollution. The bill is pending in the agriculture committee.
Gardner said a final committee vote and Senate floor vote are scheduled for this week. The bill and amendment will then be considered by the House of Representatives next month.
Sandy Bihn, executive director of Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc., said the amendment sounded promising but she wanted to get more details.
According to the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, the Toledo Harbor receives more sediment than any other Great Lakes harbor. Average annual dredging in the harbor in recent years has amounted to 635,000 cubic yards per year. The harbor’s dredging is the largest annual dredging project of any Great Lakes port, both in cost and quantity dredged.
During a June meeting of the Toledo Harbor Dredging Task Force, representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers reported a sampling plan began in conjunction with the regular dredging.
A report containing data from sampling is due in July 2014.
The Corps estimated 900,000 cubic yards would be dredged from the bay and lake in 2013 and dredging in 2014 will involve dredging more in the Maumee River between the bridges.
The Corps noted the portion of the open lake placement area where dredged materials have been deposited will reach capacity after this season, according to minutes of the meeting.