ArcelorMittal USA told a District court last week that the Cleveland steel mill will suffer “catastrophic harm” if the Cuyahoga River shipping channel is not dredged this fall.
ArcelorMittal told a U.S. district court that the sediment build-up in the shipping channel has caused cargo ships to lighten their loads resulting in a critically low inventory of iron ore pellets at the mill.
“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,” said the motion which urged the court to order an immediate dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps has monitored the channel in 2016 but said that water level was sufficient and, therefore, allowed the Corps to delay the dredging until an appropriate time and make the most efficient use of available navigation funds. Normally the channel is dredged in May and again later in the year, if necessary.
In an October 3 press release, the Corps announced that recent channel surveys show the Upper Reach of the Cuyahoga is experiencing shoaling that could be alleviated by dredging.
The Corps blames the State of Ohio for delaying the dredging over a dispute on where to place the dredged material. The Corps says it is safe to place the material in Lake Erie but the State of Ohio disagrees, arguing that the dredged material should be in a confined disposal area on the banks of the lake. The State option is more expensive and the Corps wants Ohio to pay the difference for the additional expense, citing the need to preserve sufficient funding to meet other national navigation needs.
The matter has been the subject of an ongoing dispute in federal court between the State of Ohio, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port and the Corps about who will pay for the additional dredging costs.
After an inability to reach an agreement, the Corps has told the court it will voluntarily agree to award the contract for the dredging provided there is “adequate assurance that the Corps will be reimbursed if it is ultimately successful on the merits of this case.”
According to the Lake Carriers’ Association, iron ore trade was up 2.9 percent year-over year in August for a total of 6,048,409 tons, but was 5 percent below the 5-year average. The year-to-date total of 32,851,570 tons, 2 percent below the same period in 2016.
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