Digging up profit

Sunday, 09 October 2005


SANDUSKY - Although dredging is a small portion of what is required to keep Sandusky thriving, if waterways are not cleared and the shipping channels are not kept deep enough for freighters, profits would dive.

"If we did not dredge, we possibly would not even have Cedar Point," said Shawn Bickley of Sheppard's Shoreline Construction. "Cedar Point would fill in. There is no choice but to dredge."

Dredging is the removal of accumulated bottom sediments from waterways in order to maintain adequate depth for safe and efficient vessel operations, and the deepening of navigational channels for waterfront construction, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"A large portion of the income gathered in Sandusky comes from the city's waterfront properties," said Bickley, whose contract work depends on dredging for shoreline businesses. "To have a waterfront property it is generally necessary to have the area dredged once a year, build and maintain boat docks, gas docks and storage areas. Fencing and lighting is necessary just beyond the waterfront. Insurance is also needed.

"This is only the beginning of what is needed. This is a huge process, and it generates a substantial portion of residents' income. Sandusky's greatest asset is the water."

Sandusky has more than 4,000 docks and if these areas were not dredged, there would be no boating, Bickley said. Cedar Point has more than 600 docks.

"If the marinas were not dredged, they would fill up two to four inches each year," Bickley said. "Over time, the bay would shut down."

To keep Sandusky and the surrounding area's shoreline businesses and industries thriving, the Corps of Engineers must maintain commercial and recreational harbors and navigation channels.

The Corps is responsible for maintaining navigational channels, and it divvies up work on commercial and recreational harbors among private contractors.

The Corps district office in Buffalo, N.Y., concentrates on Great Lakes commercial navigation from the Welland Canal -- located west of Buffalo -- into Lake Erie and through Cleveland, said Donald E. Guy Jr., senior geologist at Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey.

Today, Sandusky is a large coal port, but it also receives sand and gravel. More than 4.8 million tons of commodities, mostly coal, are exported from this port each year, according to Lake Erie Coastal Ohio. Railroad cars bringing in coal from the south are unloaded onto freighters at Norfolk Southern Railway's Sandusky Coal Dock by a 3,500 ton-per-hour car dumper.

More than half of all coal cargoes shipped on the Great Lakes start in the Ohio coal ports: Toledo, Sandusky, Ashtabula and Conneaut. Two types of coal are shipped on the Great Lakes -- metallurgical coal for the production of steel and steam coal for the generation of power, Lake Erie Coastal Ohio says.

"The city of Sandusky will not personally receive money from shipping, but revenue increases." said Michael Asquith, civil engineer and dredging program manager with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District.

"The harbors and businesses like TGI Friday's (which caters to boaters with its dock) also gather more revenue and income for residents," Asquith said.

In 2002, ports in Sandusky made 4,268 shipments and received 188 or processed $229 million in commodities. Coal is Sandusky's top commodity.

Limestone is the top commodity at the ports in Marblehead, Huron and Kelleys Island and those ports processed $422 million, according to the Great Lakes commission.

These 2002 figures were provided by the Great Lakes Dredging Team.

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