CLEVELAND (AP) — A steel distributor in Cleveland will suffer catastrophic harm if a federal judge doesn't immediately order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, the company's lawyers said in a 17-page motion in federal court.
If the Army Corps doesn't dredge this fall, ArcelorMittal could be forced to curtail or shut down its blast furnaces without the raw materials necessary to make steel, according to the motion.
As sediment has accumulated in the channel, cargo ships have had to lighten their loads to prevent becoming stuck in the river, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported (http://bit.ly/2d43Ymx). Those lighter loads have led the steel mill's inventory of iron ore pellets to reach a critically low level, according to the company.
"Each passing day decreases the likelihood that ArcelorMittal will be able to recover from that inventory shortfall without having to curtail or idle its plant," the motion said.
A spokesman for the Army Corps wouldn't comment on the motion and referred the newspaper to the Department of Justice, which is defending the agency in a federal lawsuit brought by the state Environmental Protection Agency and the Port of Cleveland.
The agency is required to dredge the shipping channel and Cleveland Harbor to maintain marine commerce, but it hasn't dredged this year — arguing it isn't necessary — while contesting the lawsuit.
A federal judge hasn't decided whether to order the agency to dredge and dispose of the sediment in a lakefront containment dike. The Corps would prefer to dump river sediment it says isn't toxic into Lake Erie or have someone else pay to dispose of it in the dike, but state officials have contended that dumping into the lake would harm its ecosystem.
Ohio's two U.S. senators wrote to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, pleading for an end to the Corps' "irresponsible" decision not to dredge. Darcy didn't respond to a request for comment.
Last year, a federal judge ordered the agency to dredge, ruling the loss of even 1 to 2 feet of depth could result in economic losses in excess of $2 billion annually.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com