City Council members at their Monday meeting approved seeking bids of up to $75,000 to dredge the waterway, which runs south of Tower Boulevard along state Route 2 draining into Lake Erie.
However, Lorain officials said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is limiting dredging due to concerns about excavating aquatic life. City officials had planned to spend up to $2 million for a 3.5-mile project.
It would dredge three feet of sediment and silt between West 35th Street and Oberlin Avenue that has built up in the 12-foot by six-foot culvert since it was completed in 1995. A $2 per month sewer rate increase that took effect in 2013, raising $528,000 annually, was approved to help pay for dredging.
However, City Engineer Dale Vandersommen said after the meeting that just six inches to a foot will be dredged due to concerns raised by an EPA biologist last month. “Our plan is to dredge out as much as the EPA will let us,” he said.
Linda Oros, an EPA spokeswoman, didn’t return a call and email Tuesday. Vandersommen and Mayor Chase Ritenauer said they plan to meet with county officials to discuss building retention ponds inside and outside Lorain to alleviate flooding. Ritenauer told Council members that a collaborative retention approach is needed.
“Stormwater, as we all know, is not just a city problem,” he said. “It’s a regional problem.”
Ritenauer said the EPA wants upstream retention, and Lorain is considering a retention pond in Willow Park on Oberlin. Ritenauer said a three-phase approach is planned involving dredging, retention and widening the waterway.
Safety/Service Director Robert Fowler said Phase I involves dredging from West 39th Street and Oberlin to West 44th Street, where flooding occurs frequently. Phase II involves building retention ponds in and outside Lorain.
Phase III would involve widening the creek. Vandersommen said that could be problematic because homes are built near the creek, meaning Lorain would have to purchase properties.
Councilman Dan Given, D-at large, said he understood the need to prevent flooding, but expressed concern that the scaled-back approach might worsen flooding in some areas. Given got language added to the approval ordinance limiting bid awards to $75,000 until Council has more specifics.
Ritenauer said he hopes bid approval and the commitment to retention will send a positive message to the EPA.
“I just want to move forward with looking at the phasing of this so we can try to get something done,” he said.