The city of Cleveland is seeking $219 million to permanently fix a crumbling slope above the Cuyahoga River that threatens the waterway’s vital shipping traffic, a major sewer line, two roads and several buildings along West 25th Street.

The slow-motion landslide in the Irishtown Bend area has been under way for decades, but several spots along Riverbed Street have grown markedly worse since 2006. The collapsing bank – parts of which have slumped 18 inches in the last seven months — has forced the street’s closure and installation of an emergency sewer bypass pipe in case the main line ruptures.

Halting the slide and safeguarding the river, utilities, roads and buildings is one of Mayor Frank Jackson’s top infrastructure concerns. This week, the city applied for $219 million in federal water resource money to make the repairs. Jackson asked members of Ohio’s congressional delegation to push for the funding.

The riverbank project will compete against other requests. It could be months before Congress decides which will be funded, and how much money they get.

The city’s earlier $50 million request for federal economic stimulus money to shore up the riverbank was rejected. “We’ll just keep submitting until it gets funded,” said Valarie McCall, Jackson’s chief of government affairs. “We’re at the point where we don’t want it to become our Katrina.”

03cgSLOPE.jpgView full sizeCleveland’s application cites the “serious potential” for a sudden, catastrophic collapse that would endanger lives and block the river’s shipping channel. The risk of such an event is “very small,” according to an August study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

However unlikely, the economic impact of large landslide would be huge. In 2008, ships carried $450 million of raw materials – iron ore, limestone, cement and sand – up and down the river, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association. Steelmaker Arcelor Mittel, whose factory is downstream from Irishtown Bend, uses about 12,000 tons of iron ore per day.

A severe landslide could drop as much as 200,000 cubic yards of soil and debris – the equivalent of 18,000 dump truck loads — into the river, according to the city’s funding application.

If the slope problem isn’t fixed, the Corps warns that eventually the utilities buried in the riverbank will be lost, including a 60-year-old brick and concrete pipe called the Westerly Low-Level Interceptor that carries as much as 11.6 million gallons of sewage and stormwater runoff per day.

Also at risk, according to the Corps study, is Franklin Avenue, which is higher up the slope than Riverbed Street and likely will have to be closed in the future. Several small Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority buildings near West 25th Street and Franklin – though not CMHA’s Riverview Towers complex atop the bluff — are prone to cracking and foundation damage that may render them uninhabitable.

The Corps report offers five repair options, from only safeguarding the river passage, at a cost of $80 million, to a full-scale $219 million slope stabilization and repair job that would ensure the survival of all structures, roads and utilities.

After consulting with the Corps and others affected by the riverbank problem, including CMHA, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and various businesses along the river, the city chose the most comprehensive and expensive repair option. It entails replacing the old concrete “crib wall” at the river’s edge with sheet-steel pilings, building two retaining walls on the slope, and relocating the sewer interceptor.

The repair costs are estimates that could end up being somewhat higher or lower, depending on the final designs, said David Schulenberg, the project’s manager in the Army Corps’ Buffalo district office. The work probably could be done in one construction season, he said.

The sewer district already has taken preventive actions, because of concern about the deteriorated condition of its Westerly interceptor line.

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Article courtesy of: Cleveland.com

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