Senate stalls effort to protect Lake Erie
By DAVID ANDERSON
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
Just over a year ago, governors from the eight Great Lakes states along with premiers from Quebec and Ontario signed an historic agreement to protect the largest single source of fresh surface water in North America.
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement aims in principle to prevent diversion of water to destinations outside the basin and promises to improve water management and protection. Ideally, the agreement paves the way for Canada and the United States to collaborate in saving the Great Lakes.
Stateside, the eight Great Lakes states are considering a proposed compact that works in tandem with the agreement. That compact prohibits all new or increased diversions of water outside the basin and anticipates a common standard for water usage. Each of the Great Lakes states must develop and pass legislation to implement the compact. But so far, nobody has completed this necessary step to make it a reality.
Initially Ohio seemed to be on the fast track to ratification. Legislation to implement it in the Buckeye State passed quickly in the House of Representatives.
State Rep. Matthew Dolan, R-Novelty, who introduced the legislation deserves much of the credit.
But when state Sen. Robert Spada, R-North Royalton, introduced similar legislation in the Senate, it got no traction and eventually stalled out. Even a strong push from the governor's office didn't persuade Senate leadership to get the bill rolling again.
Hopefully the new Ted Strickland-Lee Fisher administration will be able to jump-start Senate passage. Gov. Strickland knows the importance of protecting the Great Lakes. During his tenure in Congress, Strickland supported a bi-partisan effort to pass The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. Although the bill didn't make it through Congress, it was important in spotlighting problems and highlighting the need to clean up the lakes.
Legacy of human misuse
The waters of the Great Lakes provide drinking water, food, transportation, and recreation for millions of people. But the Lakes suffer from a legacy of human misuse and abuse. Logging, over-fishing, sewage overflows, toxic waste discharges, and aquatic invasive species have inflicted massive environmental damage. Some of the top priorities for clean up and restoration include: eliminating bacterial and chemical contamination of local beaches, stopping untreated wastewater discharges from sanitary sewers, improving drinking water quality, preventing contamination from toxic substances like mercury, PCBs dioxins, and pesticides, stopping farm manure run off, and cleaning up ship ballast to prevent the spread of invasive species.
The "to do" list is long; the timeframe for success is very short. Along the 312 miles of Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline is one of the largest freshwater commercial fisheries in the world. Passage of the compact will help protect an important economic and natural resource. Any legislation that provides sanitary beaches, better water quality, and improved wildlife habitat will enhance the quality of life for all Ohioans.
David Anderson is a former public radio news producer and reporter in Columbus, Ohio. Distributed by MinutemanMedia.org.