Saving Creek Means Running It Under New Airport Runway

CLEVELAND (AP) - The only way to keep a creek flowing and still make room for an airport's runway expansion was put it underground, airport officials said.

For months, workers have been digging a new bed for little Abram Creek and lining it with concrete pipe so it can be buried beneath a new runway at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

They will have moved 4 million cubic yards of dirt -- enough to fill Cleveland Browns Stadium -- by the time they finish.

"Not only is it an engineering marvel, but there's the environmental twist," said Chris Nielson, a deputy airport director.

To reduce pollution from the creek into the nearby Rocky River, Cleveland will capture storm water in a detention basin and monitor its quality before releasing it into the new tunnel.

The project costs about $50 million, The Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

Because the city is reducing one wetland, Cleveland will pay $27 million to improve other regional wetlands, mostly in Geauga and Lorain counties, the newspaper said.

Environmental groups fought the Abram Creek project, arguing that wetlands near the airport are important to Rocky River's health because they filter polluted water and provide animal habitat.

State environmental officials suggested building a bridge to carry the new runway across the creek, but airport officials said that would be dangerous because ice forms easily on bridges.

Christopher Jones, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, took the unusual step of allowing the creek to be buried because of the airport's importance to the region's economy.

Neighboring Olmsted Falls, which expects to have more loud jets overhead when the airport expansion is complete, is still trying to stop the project through a lawsuit, but about half the concrete pipe already has been installed.

By fall 2004, the creek will run through three-quarters of a mile of pipe. That will allow adding 2,000 feet to a the new 7,000-foot runway expected to be finished by December.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)