It began with birds, but it's turned into a battle between local, state, and federal governments. Dike 14 is an off-shore Army Corps containment disposal site near Gordon State Park. It's filled with 23 years worth of sediments dredged from the Cuyahoga. It's also home to hundreds of species of migratory birds. Last year the Corps capped the side and turned it over to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, which wants to add more fill. But the state wants to make a new park on the 88-acre dike. Now city and conuty officials have joined the fray, hoping to convince the Corps to let the Port dump its dredgings elsewhere. 90.3 WCPN's Karen Schaefer has this report on the debate over Dike 14.
Karen Schaefer: Last night (January 31), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing on an application for a submerged land lease of Dike 14. About 70 people showed up to protest the request. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority wants to lease 15 acres of the site to dispose of additional fill. Shirley Babbit represents 48 state chapters of the League of Women Voters who oppose the move. She says the one-time waste ground has become a refuge for Lake Erie wildlife. Today, more than 270 species of migratory birds flock to Dike 14.
Shirley Babbit:It is the only significant wildlife habitat along 80 miles of highly-urbanized lakefront on Lake Erie's shoreline from Huron, Ohio to our west, to Mentor, Ohio on our east.
KS: Babbit is only one of hundreds of local residents and civic groups who say they want more public access to Lake Erie. 25 years ago, a master plan for city parks called for a new park to one day be built on Dike 14. The Department of Natural Resources wants to begin a 6-month public planning process to determine the site's future use. But there's a hitch. Steve Pfeiffer is Maritime Director for the Port Authority. He says he has nowhere else to deposit dredged materials.
Steve Pfeiffer: If we don't have it, the river's not going to be open and the lake's going to fill in and the marinas are going to have problems. And so we need to look ahead now.
KS: The logical place to put dredgings gleaned from rivers, city sewers and local utilities is the city's other disposal site, Dike 10B, off the shore of Burke Lakefront Airport. But the Army Corps of Engineers says local fill can't go into a federal containment facility. Cleveland residents like Steve Merkel worry that covering Dike 14 with fresh mud and sludge would destroy its future value as a park or wildlife sanctuary.
Steve Merkel: Let's take a look at what they want to do there. They say a hundred-thousand cubic yards. How much is that? Think about sitting in a football stadium and looking at the field. Now imagine a large pipe comes in and starts filling up that field with goo. It gets higher and higher and when it gets to the height of six stories and the size of that football field, that's the amount of material they want to put - at least for right now - on the site.
KS: Last year, local government got involved in the debate. City Councilman Ed Rybka says first the council, then the mayor asked the Port Authority to desist.
Ed Rybka: In June of 2001, the City Council of Cleveland unanimouosly passed a resolution urging the Cuyahoga County Port Authority to refrain from dumping new fill or dredgings on Dike 14. Also the or shortly thereafter, then Mayor Mike White communicated his desire that therer be a moratorium by the Port on any further disposal of fill on Dike 14.
KS: The Port Authority honored the moratorium. Senator George Voinovich and Congressman Steve La Tourette were asked to use their influence to alter the Corps' decision. But so far nothing has changed. And now the Port Authority has 27,000 cubic yards of dredgings left over from last year and no place to put it. Cleveland resident Ed Hauser says he's worried the whole issue could backfire.
Ed Hauser: Over the past few years, the Port has had a lot of negative press, whether it's the Hewletts, leveling Whiskey Island for a Prot facility. And what my concern is, with all this negative press they've been getting, they have a levy coming on May 7th. And if the citizens of this county get that upset and they vote no, we may lose a Port Authority.
Chris Ronayne: At four o'clock today, Mayor Campbell took an action today that I think will ehlp move us in this process...
KS: This week, new mayor Jane Campbell decided it was time to take some action. City Planning Director Chris Ronayne says she wrote a letter to the Corps' regional commander in Buffalo asking to discuss ways to resolve the dispute. City and county officials have also signed the request. The city hopes to meet with the Corps in the next few weeks. Maritime Director Steve Pfeiffer says he welcomes the support.
SP:We do. We support the use of Dike 14 and 88 acres and the public planning process. We have, the Port Authority has no future use for that site. We know that it will be up to the public to decide what the final end and we support whatever that ends up being.
KS: In the meantime residents, city, and community leaders are asking the Department of Natural Resources to hold off on their decision on the Port Authority's request. The state's plan for public input on Dike 14's future will begin as scheduled next month. In Cleveland, Karen Schaefer, 90.3 WCPN News.