By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
An environmental group is trying to temporarily halt a $2 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project intended to deepen a stretch of the Mill Creek at Salway Park to reduce flooding.
The Mill Creek Restoration Project - environmental activists concerned about the health of the creek - says the Corps is doing significant damage to the creek because its contractor does not have protections in place to stop erosion of the creek bank during construction or to keep soil from polluting the waterway. Both pollution-control measures are required by the state permit, which allows the Corps to perform the work.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will perform an inspection of the site today to determine whether the Corps is in violation of its permit.
"There is massive work going on out here, and there are not protections in place," said Robin Corathers, director of the environmental activists' group. "They've created a lot of damage."
Corps spokeswoman Carol Baternik said the pollution controls are in place and the Corps welcomes the meeting with the OEPA. She said it would be impossible to complete the project without getting some soil in the water.
"We have inspectors that go to our sites about three times a week," she said. "We had one out there today, and our inspector reported that the controls are in place. They are going to stir up some soil on this project. That is to be expected."
The environmental group was going to file a request for a temporary restraining order in federal court Monday, but it decided to hold off until after the meeting with the OEPA.
The Corps' project, on the drawing board since 1998, will help reduce flooding by making the creek channel deeper. The plan also calls for an access road to be built in the flood plain, and for rocks and native plants to stabilize the creek bank. The environmental group is angry because its recommendations for the project were ignored, Corathers said.
Baternik said the people and businesses along the creek have waited long enough.
"We think it's time people get their flood (protection)," she said.
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