Irishtown Bend Hillside Needs to be Fixed to Avoid Collapse, Says Port Authority

click to enlarge Irishtown Bend Hillside Needs to be Fixed to Avoid Collapse, Says Port Authority
This is one of the narrowest stretches of the Cuyahoga.
Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will present findings from a recent study on the deteriorating Irishtown Bend hillside. The Port has proposed a series of remediations on the ½ mile curve of the Cuyahoga River’s West Bank that would cost about $50 million.

That sounds a like a ton of money, but it’s a distant cry from the $240-million proposal grandly submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers a few years ago, a proposal that was predicated on faulty geologic theory and no original data-collection, and which relied primarily on a litany of inconclusive reports from area stakeholders.

“The Corps logo is a turreted castle,” said the Port’s director of sustainable infrastructure programs, Jim White, in a phone conversation with Scene. “Their DNA is coastal defense. They like to build big, clunky things. And I think they were proud of the proposal, but every engineer we interviewed said it was the dumbest thing they’d ever seen.”

The Port has been trading punches with the Army Corps of Engineers for months, via the media, as they debate the Corps’ toxic dredge dump strategy. But as for the Franklin Avenue hillside, said White:

“It’s time to get this done.”

He characterized the study completed for the Port by engineering firm Barr & Prevost as “encyclopedic” and then “ridiculously thorough.” Key among the report’s findings was the ongoing risk of “catastrophic hillside failure” (i.e. collapse) if water conditions and slope stability at the toe aren’t dealt with promptly.

“It’s not teetering on the brink,” White said. “It’s not like a single person on a pogo stick is going to make it come crashing down, but it needs to be fixed. It’s below the recommended factor of safety. If there were, say, a heavy, wet March snowfall and then an uplift, a little earthquake bump…I don’t know.”

White said that preserving the hillside should be a priority for the many government agencies involved, and that a projected $48 million budget, though expensive, would be manageable.

“If the Sewer District, the Metroparks, the City and the County all put up $12 million, you’ve got your money,” he said.

Of the projected costs, $2 million would go toward bike and pedestrian trails, but White said the priority should be determining the source of water saturation, fixing and realigning any sewer lines underground, and fortifying the slope at the North end. Ongoing attempts to determine the source of water damage have been complicated by a brutal, icy winter.

Ed Rybka, Cleveland’s Chief of Regional Development is hosting the meeting Wednesday with the Port and other stakeholders. The Port would love to see a specific plan of action emerge from the meeting. White said he also thinks a task force of some kind would be a prudent idea. Rybka himself was unavailable for comment.