The Dredge Report

The port authority levy is asking for too much, too late

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City Hall was making a mess out of waterfront planning and putting the port authority at the forefront of its fiascoes. But even under the best of circumstances, it was clear that the port authority had neither the people nor the proficiency to manage a project of that size. Plus, the disruption and personnel turnover left the port authority with an institutional memory that only reached back to yesterday.

Lingering over City Hall and the port authority all this time was the costly dredging problem. One estimate put the cost at $132 million. It wasn't until Wasserman's departure and the appointment of an interim port director, Peter Raskin, that a solution to the dredging issue was finally sought.

Raskin declared the East 55th plan unworkable, and formed a task force to find a plan that would keep the river open.

The task force consisted of seven members from some of the most important offices in northeast Ohio. There were representatives from U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich, as well as a member of U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge's staff. There were also representatives from various state offices, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The group met for two years and could find no acceptable solution, according to news accounts. Then, in a eureka moment, last week port President and CEO William Friedman announced in The Plain Dealer that a solution had been found for the dredging problem. The "crisis" had been averted.

The answer to the puzzle was provided by a consultant who was paid $350,000.

What Friedman presumably did not know was that Dr. Charles E. Herdendorf, professor emeritus of Geological Sciences at Ohio State University, had given the port authority similar information and provided it to the Corps of U.S. Army Engineers two years earlier. He even published his recommendation in a signed article in the June 14, 2010 issue of Crain's Cleveland Business.

"This dredging method has been operating in other areas for a while," Herdendorf says now, expressing surprise that port authority officials seem to have become aware of it only recently.

Herdendorf recalls delivering a copy of his report to the port authority. Current port officials say they were unaware of any such information, perhaps a result of the massive turnover caused by the port board's mismanagement in 2010.

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