Port of Cleveland inaugurates new cleanup of Cleveland Harbor

Work boats to remove floating debris from river and lakefront as part of Port’s environmental stewardship mission

OCTOBER 17, 2012 – The Port of Cleveland commissioned two custom-made boats today that will remove floating debris from the Cuyahoga River and downtown Lake Erie shoreline. They are part of the Port’s broader mission to help restore the health of the river and serve as a proactive environmental steward in and around our waterways. 

Full Press Release >

Port of Cleveland wins Environmental Enhancement Award

International association lauds Port for opening the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve

OCTOBER 17, 2012 – The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has won an international industry award for opening and managing the Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, an honor that underscores the Port’s commitment to environmental stewardship and public access to the lakefront.  Full Press Release >

Join the Port for the public launch of our new cleanup boats

To remove floating debris from the river and downtown lakefront we built two boats, and will commission them 11 a.m. Oct. 17 at North Coast Harbor.

For more information click here.

eNewsletter: October 2012

William D. Friedman
President & CEO

Cleveland took root along waterways that fueled the growth of the city and economy, and we believe Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River are as intertwined in our region’s future as its past. To sustain Cleveland’s waterways and make our waterfronts more accessible and vibrant, the Port of Cleveland has launched a series of initiatives that are both innovative and cost effective. 

Each story in this eNewsletter demonstrates both the importance of maritime to Greater Cleveland, and the Port’s approach in addressing needs and opportunities on the docks, along the water, and in the community.

In this edition, we’ll take you on a journey along the Cuyahoga with a giant ore freighter; explain what’s causing Franklin Hill to slowly slide into the river and how we aim to fix it; and highlight Project YESS, a leadership development program that provides teens with lifelong skills and confidence as they sail aboard a tall ship on Lake Erie. These stories offer just a few examples of how the Port is working creatively and collaboratively to sustain jobs, solve critical infrastructure problems, develop civic assets, and maximize our benefit to the community.

To help fund our strategic initiatives focused on investments on jobs, the river, and the lakefront, the Port has placed Issue 108 on the countywide fall ballot. If the levy is approved, nearly all  of the funds generated will be used to help connect people to the riverfront and downtown lakeshore with pedestrian bridges, and protect the jobs and commerce that depend on our waterways.   The lake and river represent our history and our present, but also, and most importantly, our future.  The Port is dedicated to making the most of these assets, securing the maritime economy, and doing our part to help build a community where young people like the teens from Project YESS see their own futures here in Cleveland.


  • Nearly 18,000 jobs, $1 billion in family income, and $112 million in local and state taxes are tied to the Cleveland’s Port-and-river maritime activities and investments.
  • Later this month, the Port’s newly built work boats – Flotsam and Jetsam – will begin removing logs, trash, and other floating debris from the river and downtown lakeshore.
  • The new Cleveland Harbor Belt Railroad – which operates on the Port of Cleveland’s newly expanded rail system – recently handled its first move. More than 240 metric tons of generators were transported via rail to American Electric Power in Ironton, Ohio.

To read other eNewsletter stories click here.

On the Docks

Navigating the narrow, twisting river to fuel the economy

Several times each week, giant freighters the length of two football fields travel up the Cuyahoga River to deliver iron ore pellets to ArcelorMittal Cleveland’s steel complex, a journey that is both critical to the economy and a navigational feat.

On a recent September morning, the American Courage – an American Steamship Co. freighter – began a trip upriver at the Port Authority’s Cleveland Bulk Terminal, where it picked up roughly 15,000 tons of iron ore. This was the 635-foot freighter’s second trip that day up the 5.5-mile ship channel to ArcelorMittal, where workers would later turn the iron ore into steel used to produce cars, construct buildings, and make household appliances. 

American Courage Captain John Chidester is a veteran of 400-plus such trips, and appeared unfazed by the daunting task of maneuvering the massive freighter up the famously crooked river. Asked about the toughest part of the journey, he said “the beginning and the end.” From a perch atop a pilothouse six stories high, Chidester eased the ship away from the lakefront dock, using a control that resembles a video game joystick.

Even for a veteran, the narrow, sharply curving river is difficult to navigate, especially on summer days when the river is teeming with commercial and recreational boats of all sizes. That’s a big reason why the freighter – whose top speed on the river is 1.9 miles an hour – will take three hours to make its way up the ship channel through tight turns and other logistical challenges. And it will pass what The Coast Pilot navigation publication lists as 34 structures across the river, including viaducts, overhead power cables, a conveyer, a pipeline, and 21 bridges, some operable, others not.

Captain Chidester directs 20 crewmen, with the first and second mates and watchman strategically placed on deck and calling out distances so that Chidester knows just how close the freighter is to the river’s edge. The chatter between them is constant, but the sound ratchets up as the ship nears Irishtown Bend, Collision Bend, Marathon Bend, and areas where concrete vestiges of railroad bridges obstruct parts of the channel.

“Thirty-four feet, twenty-feet, twelve feet, ten-feet, six feet,” one or another crew member calls in tightly coordinated signals that allow the captain to squeeze through tight turns and successfully complete a trip without schedule delays or damaging contact with the bulkheads that line the edge of the ship channel. Chidester registers the distances as they are shouted out, making a series of turns that leave no room for error. His tools are hand controls that adjust the rudder and engage the bow thrusters to propel the freighter, causing the surrounding water to bubble and wave. (Rowers beware: the strong currents generated by these turns can sweep someone into the water and possibly onto the shoreline.)

Coordination is also critical between the captain and the bridge tenders, who in some cases must raise a bridge for a freighter and then quickly lower it for a train that will zoom along the bridge’s track just minutes later. The trip is like a lesson in bridge architecture and mechanics, as the freighter passes by ones that lift vertical, rise up from one end, or swing open. The Center Street Bridge, which swings to allow boats to pass, is the only one of its type remaining in the area.

During its three-hour trip, American Courage passes by industrial facilities that underscore the importance of Cleveland’s lake-and-river system for companies that depend on waterborne transportation to move the raw materials that help drive our economy. Those companies range from Cereal Food Processors, Inc., which processes grain into flour used in bakeries, to Marathon Petroleum Co., which supplies fuel to gas stations.

About 5.5 miles upstream from the mouth of the river is the head of the federal navigation channel. It’s also home to the 800-acre ArcelorMittal Cleveland complex. There, the American Courage docks and the iron ore is removed from the freighter’s hold via a conveyor belt and then transferred to shore on a 250-foot boom. 

Three hours later, with the freighter now empty, the American Courage begins its return down river, through three Great Lakes, and back to Silver Bay, Minnesota where that September voyage first began, and where another pile of iron ore awaits.

This is the first of a three-part series. Next month we will follow the iron ore at the ArcelorMittal Cleveland complex.

 To read other eNewsletter stories  click here

Photos by Bob Perkoski

  • On the Docks
On the Docks











Along the Water

Stabilizing Franklin Hill to protect the ship channel and open access to the riverfront 

Thirty-one acres of land along the west bank of the Cuyahoga River pose both a serious threat and a unique opportunity for Cleveland. Franklin Hill has been slowly but steadily collapsing toward the water for years, threatening to block the river and halt the flow of commerce. The Port of Cleveland aims to develop a creative solution to fix the ages-old problem, while in the process creating an urban green space with public access to the riverfront.

Located adjacent to West 25th Street and near the West Side Market, the site, also known as Irishtown Bend, had been covered by glaciers, which advanced and receded multiple times thousands of years ago.  The ebb and flow of this ancient ice formed the Great Lakes, cut the Cuyahoga Valley – including Franklin Hill – creating its shifting, separating layers of clay, rock, sand, and silt. The introduction of manmade fill material and poor land-management practices only exacerbated the unstable nature of the area.

The most visible evidence of Franklin Hill’s threatened collapse is found along Riverbed Road, closed for several years due to the steady and accelerating deterioration of the slope.  Since then, a crack down the center of the road has grown dramatically, leaving the northbound lane sitting approximately six feet below the southbound one. A major sewer line that carries untreated sewage is also buried dozens of feet underneath, and the hill’s degradation threatens this line. A few years ago, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) took the precautionary step of running a bypass line above ground so that it would be prepared in the event of a collapse.

The area of instability runs 80 feet deep according to Jim White, director of Sustainable Infrastructure Programs for the Port.  White explained that, based on preliminary discussions with engineers, the solution will likely require removal of a significant amount of material from the site, adding a network of anchor pins, and installing both deep drainage structures and habitat-friendly bulkheads along the shoreline. “This is not just a simple storm water runoff issue,” said White. “It goes much deeper than that.” 

A proper remedy will require a comprehensive solution with improvements to numerous properties. But ultimately, White said, the Port’s solution would also be tens of millions of dollars less expensive than a prior estimate by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

With thousands of jobs dependent on an open river channel, the situation has serious implications for the entire community.  The risk of a catastrophic collapse is small, but very real.  If it happened, local businesses that rely on waterborne transportation could run out of product, creating cascading disruptions to customers down the production chain.  “Add to that the simple embarrassment Cleveland would face if we let our river become blocked when we could have prevented it,” noted White.  “We don’t want another situation where the world is laughing at Cleveland because of our river, which should now be a point of pride.”

During last year’s strategic planning process, the Port focused on stabilizing Franklin Hill as a key priority. As part of that effort, the Port is working with local stakeholders to create a solution to both prevent a landslide and turn Franklin Hill into an active, open green space that provides public access to the riverfront.

“The Port has taken a forward thinking approach to fixing the situation,” said Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City, Inc., the community development corporation serving the area. “Their plan provides the missing piece to connect the neighborhood to the lake and river while addressing major safety and environmental threats.” Wobser said the future vision for Ohio City includes stabilizing the hill, narrowing West 25th Street, and replacing the buildings currently in jeopardy with a green space and trails to connect surrounding neighborhoods to the water.  “Without the Port, we would be at square one in trying to move this forward,” said Wobser.

Funding for the hillside stabilization project is expected to come from a mix of local, state, and federal dollars. To support this work and other critical infrastructure projects linked to the lake and river, the Port has placed Issue 108 on the November ballot for Cuyahoga County.  The Port, Ohio City, and others would seek to leverage the levy dollars to secure additional funding at the state and federal levels.

Port Authority President & CEO Will Friedman sees the future of Franklin Hill as one where a practical engineering solution is merged with economic and community development efforts. “We can make this place safe and preserve maritime commerce, but also create a community asset full of urban green space and tied to biking and pedestrian corridors” he said. “It’s an opportunity to avoid a catastrophe while making a place with great potential come alive.”

To read other eNewsletter stories click here. 

  • In the Community
Along the Water




In the Community

Giving teens leadership and sailing skills that will last a lifetime

Cleveland high school sophomore Orlando Hopson had never stepped on a boat until this past August, when he and other local teens spent a week sailing Lake Erie aboard the 198-foot US Brig Niagara, and climbing 100-plus foot masts.  The trip was part of a Rotary Club of Cleveland program to cultivate character and leadership in high school students – not to mention the skills to help crew on a reconstructed tall ship that served in the Battle of 1812 on Lake Erie.

The program, Project YESS (Youth Empowered to Succeed through Sailing), is a unique educational adventure that develops courage and confidence in teens. It teaches life lessons and the importance of participating in a community, whether on land or at sea. Next year, the program will culminate with YESS students traveling to other Great Lakes ports, and then returning to Cleveland on board the tall ships arriving here for the Parade of Sail, which launches the Port of Cleveland’s 2013 Tall Ships Festival on July 3rd.

Project YESS is a summer program open to all teens from ages 13 to 17, but has a special focus on underprivileged youth. “Most of our teens have not seen the lake up close, let alone a tall ship, and many have endured significant life challenges — from homelessness to losing siblings to gang violence,” said Eileen Smotzer, chair for the Rotary Club’s Project YESS Youth Services subcommittee. “Project YESS gets these talented young people out of their comfort zones and opens their eyes to our Great Lake’s beauty and the career opportunities it has to offer.”

Students receive 20 hours of classroom instruction, beginning with an 8-hour leadership boot camp, which helps with team building and sets the stage for future sailing sessions. Later classes focus on sailing knowledge and skills, such as water safety, celestial navigation, chart reading, and knot tying, as well as broader issues, such as the environment, Great Lakes resources, and maritime careers. Students also have the opportunity to participate in weekly practice sails to better prepare for their voyage.

The highlight of the program is always the week-long voyage. And this year’s trip on the US Brig Niagara was no exception.  The ship, led by Captain Wesley Heerssen, provided an exciting setting, and has local significance — it’s the original, reconstructed flagship of Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie.

“As soon as the kids came on board, they were literally full-blown working members of the ship.” Smotzer said. “They slept in hammocks, assisted with the daily work, and even climbed the masts.”

Smotzer also stressed the “incredible growth” the teens experienced during the trip.  “They lived in close quarters, which helped them understand how to work with others and take orders,” she said. “It’s amazing to see these kids develop more self reliance and confidence as they achieve things they never thought they had in them.” In addition, as working crewmembers, the teens learned that their actions directly impact their fellow shipmates – an important lesson they will take with them in their personal and professional lives.

Orlando Hopson, who attends John Adams High School, was a member of the 2012 Project YESS class.  While initially a bit apprehensive because he didn’t have any sailing know how, Orlando loved the experience and developed new friendships.  “Everybody came from different backgrounds, but we all got along,” he said.  “Even though I live in the so-called ‘hood,’ and other kids had more money, it didn’t matter. We became a real team and learned a lot from each other.”  One of his favorite experiences was “going aloft” and climbing the 100-plus feet masts, which he described as “always a little bit scary, but still so much fun.”

The Port of Cleveland is a partner in the program and title sponsor of next year’s Tall Ships Festival. “We’re grateful to the Port for sponsoring the event and partnering with us on the YESS program,” Smotzer said. “We hope to partner more in the future, and have them visit our class sessions to talk about possible careers at the Port.”

Project YESS aims to have 25 teens participate each year. The Rotary Club of Cleveland and its generous sponsors fund all program costs.  Applications for next year’s program are due in mid-March. For more information, contact The Rotary Club of Cleveland’s office at 216-556-8637 or email ProjectYESS@yahoo.com.

To read other eNewsletter stories click here.

In the Community