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Environment & Energy

Port of Toledo has a Novel Way to Take Care of Lake Erie Dredge Material

rendering of the dredged material facility
Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority

Each year, ports on the Great Lakes dredge tons of material to keep shipping lanes open. But disposing of the spoils is a big problem. The Port of Toledo has a creative approach:  farming.

The Port of Toledo dredges more sediment than any port on the Great Lakes – up to a million cubic yards every year. The Port’s Joseph Cappel says the idea of reusing sediment as soil for agriculture is new for the Great Lakes region and ideal for Lake Erie’s western basin. 

“Because there are so many agricultural fields around this area in this watershed, it’s kind of a logical choice to take a look at returning this soil to where its ultimately coming from.” 

Cappel says material dredged from the Maumee River is safe for planting crops and is not contaminated. The sediment can also be used to build up a field so it’s less prone to flooding. Cappel says getting farmers to look at sediment as a useful material requires data and research they’ll conduct over the two-year project. 

“The idea of this project is to change the perception of this material, get people more open to using it in their own projects because there’s plenty of it to go around.”

Other cities have tried using dredged sediment for road improvements, construction, and freeway bank restoration.

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream Cleveland and WXXI Rochester.