Kasich misses boat on water bill
Ohio Gov. John Kasich missed the boat this week in signing House Bill 473, which sets water withdrawal limits from Lake Erie and its tributaries. He vetoed a supremely industry-friendly, ecologically insensitive version a year ago, but supports this one, something of a half-way measure. It makes him seem Solomonic, a master of compromise, collegial, reasonable. How politically convenient, and superficial. The new law places Ohio in the middle of the pack of eight Great Lakes state in terms of water-use restrictions under the umbrella Great Lakes Water Compact. Kasich chose to run middle of pack rather than lead the pack with this law, which is far too lenient when it comes to withdrawals from watersheds of rivers and streams that feed Lake Erie. In caving into business and industrial interests, the governor has shown that he is only halfway interested in conserving the long-term health of Lake Erie and its watersheds. The key problem is that the law allows averaging of water withdrawals across up to 45 or 90 days from vulnerable streams and rivers. “Fish don’t live in an average; they live in natural water,” asserted State Rep. Dennis Murray (D. Sandusky), who opposed such long-term averaging.
That hits the nail on the head when it comes to aquatic ecological health. Big withdrawals at the wrong time could ruin fish spawning, for example, yet still remain hidden when rolled into a 45- or 90-day “average.” Other states, including Michigan, allow only a tighter 30-day average. The new law also neatly muzzles boaters, fishermen, swimmers, and other water creationists from making any challenges against any permit decisions involving industrial or business users. The governor and State Legislature have thrown the baby out with the bath water on this one.