East Chicago Waterway To Be Dredged For Full-Load Barges

The East Chicago (Ind.) Waterway Management District (ECWMD) has announced that an Indiana canal will be dredged to its authorized depth for the first time since 1972 to allow barge traffic with full loads. The Corps of Engineers plans to dredge 182,300 cubic yards of sediment from the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal. The dredging process is expected to start in July, according to Fernando Treviño, executive director of ECWMD, which supervises the commercial, industrial and recreational development of East Chicago waterways.

The dredging is part of a cleanup plan that has been years in the making. The cleanup includes not only the canal, but the Grand Calumet River and Lake George Canal as well. All three waterways were heavily contaminated by years of discharges of pollutants from nearby oil refineries, meatpacking plants and chemical factories. Toxic substances in the sediment include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oil and grease, cyanide and heavy metals. The sediment was too contaminated for disposal in the lake or on an ordinary land-based site.

About 1.58 cubic million cubic yards of sediment has been dredged from the canal since 2012. Before that, the canal had not been dredged since 1972 because of contaminated sediment and the need for a suitable disposal facility.  The East Chicago Waterway Management District was created in 1994 to manage and supervise the industrial, commercial and recreational development of the waterways in the city of East Chicago. The project includes the operation and maintenance of the East Chicago confined disposal facility.

The contractors, a joint venture between Kokosing Construction Company, Ohio and O’Brien & Gere, Ill., will dredge approximately 150,000 to 200,000 cubic yards in 2020. By 2021, the entire federal channel will be dredged to congressionally authorized navigation depths, including the removal of sediments in adjacent berthing and docking areas at nonfederal expense. The navigation project consists of a harbor channel ranging in depth from 27 to 29 feet low water datum and two canals with depths of 22 feet.