Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dredging the Ohio

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is considering granting permission to a private company, Nugent Sand of Louisville, KY, to dredge sand from the Ohio River near Portsmouth, Ohio. "So what?" you ask. The problem with this is three-fold: first, taking away sand from the river will almost certainly result in erosion on the bank, threatening the property of folks living close to the waters' edge. Second, filtering sand from the river bed will stir up thousands of tons of muck, which will be allowed to wash downstream, wrecking havoc on ecosystems below the dredge site. And third, pulling up sediment will disturb existing benthic (bottom-dwelling) creatures, especially freshwater mussels. Mussels have had a rough time of it since European settlement in the Ohio River Valley. They have been exploited for their shells (used to make buttons before plastics were supplemented around WWII), suffocated in silt, and displaced by rising water levels when the Ohio was dammed.

To have your say in the outcome of the decision whether or not to allow dredging for profit near Portsmouth, you can attend a public meeting at the West Portsmouth High School at 6pm on Thursday, December 10.