Hello EnvioMich Readers,
Yellow alert. We have an uncomfortable feeling here in the Saginaw Bay Watershed that more bad things are afoot.
As most of you know we have a dredging problem with the navigational channel of the Saginaw River. We opposed the location of a dredge pit because of dioxin laden sediments, a site selected by Saginaw County and the Corps; we went to federal court insisting on an EIS and were turned down, in part, because the Corps/Saginaw promised a slurry wall, public hearing on a state groundwater permit, and review of an operation and management plan.
We got nothing. No slurry wall to contain the dioxin/PCB laden sediments, no groundwater permitting, in fact, after three years we don't even have an Operational Management Plan telling how these sediments will be handled in the short term and in perpetuity.
Yet, the Corps says, their way or the highway and threatens to take the money for dredging elsewhere. The only one holding strong is the DEQ, it too expected the slurry wall, plan, and ground water permit, and it too got shafted. The DEQ issued a 401 Certificate predicted on the Corp demonstrating the site could contain these sediments. Recall if you will, the highest concentrations of dioxin in the Great Lakes are found in the Saginaw River system. The Corp, in DEQ's estimation, failed to demonstrate that the site, which contains sand lenses, could contain these sediments without the slurry wall. MDEQ is holding firm.
Today we found out that Lt. Gov. John Cherry is intervening on this project. That's why the yellow alert. We are concerned. The slurry pit site, next to homes and families sits on the Crow Island Game Preserve in the floodway of the Saginaw River: it requires a decision based on science not on politics or expediency.
While we applaud the DEQ for holding firm on the necessary " betterments" for this site, truth is, this has always been the wrong place to put highly contaminated sediments. The Corp never had the money to do this project correctly and it's coming home to roost.
We support the economic benefits provided by shipping, but we bear witness to the long term economic impairments of a contaminated watershed. The results of years of ill thought out policy decisions. We didn't arrive on the Area of Concern list by accident.
There are alternatives to an unprotected dioxin-loaded pit next to a game area near homes: Make space for the placement of Geo Tubes along the river, decant and treat the water. Then haul the Geo-Tubes to a land fill and restore the floodplain. The Geo Tubes would be expensive but also could be used to buy time until a source of funding was appropriated. It would be a win-win for the watershed, the dock owners and the people being forced to live next to this pit.
This site is owned by the taxpayers of Saginaw County. We await a process more transparent then it has been to date. We await the Lieutenant Governor's decision. What happens here could be a great precedent for the Great Lakes or one that could set a bad precedent for years to come. We hope for a win-win and the opportunity for public input.
Michelle Hurd Riddick and Terry Miller
Lone Tree Council