Ohio misses the boat on Lake Erie impairment designation

Don’t bet on western Lake Erie’s Ohio waters – heart of the best fish spawning grounds on the Great Lakes and among the most important in the world – being declared impaired and getting much-needed  help anytime soon.

That is because the administration of Gov. John Kasich is a lame duck, and the governor is more interested in sporting about the country selling his new book and jonesing for the next big thing in his ambitious political career. And pretending to be a fiscal “rainy day” genius instead of a cold cheapskate when it comes to conserving the state’s natural heritage.

In fact don’t expect much positive movement at all in behalf of the state’s natural resources – from cracking down on gas-fracking to finding money for parks repairs and maintenance and for maintenance or acquisition of more, much-needed public hunting and fishing land and access. Or for using the paltry 200,000 acres of state forest – as opposed to 8 million acres of often abused, “do-as-you-please” private forest – for anything more than a pulpwood factory. To this administration – and our equally cheapskate, short-sighted State Legislature – our natural resources are nothing but tax-offset money, mere commodities to use and abuse in the short-term and the devil with future generations. Such is the shameful Kasich-era non-stewardship.

But back to Lake Erie, Ohio’s greatest natural resource: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently said that it would not push the state to declare its portion of western Lake Erie as impaired, this in bald contradiction to pleas by both environmentalists and Lucas County commissioners at Toledo, who think the move will hurt the lake’s water quality. So reports The Blade at Toledo.

An impairment designation legally would set up the region for a more specific investigation into the sources of algae-growing phosphorus and nitrogen releases, the newspaper reported.

Environmentalists had filed two federal lawsuits demanding a decision on impairment. By law, the agency was supposed to issue a ruling back in November. A declaration of impairment would unleash a flood of federal assistance and research programs, which significantly have aided in the recovery of Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and a number of other highly stressed waters around the country. But Lake Erie, no. Kasich says it would impair tourism. Forget the negative impact on tourism of all that pea soup toxic algae in late summer or the internationally infamous three-day shutdown of Toledo’s water supply in late summer, 2014. Farmers will fix it out of the good of their hearts. Right.

Surprisingly, the newspaper reported, the USEPA order was signed by a former Ohio EPA director, Chris Korleski, who served under the Democratic Strickland administration and in recent years has been head of the USEPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office in Chicago. In January, Korleski was moved into the position of USEPA Region 5 water director, The Blade noted.

Critics rightly contend that Ohio under the Kasich administration and current Republican-overwhelmed Statehouse relies too heavily on voluntary incentives that are embraced in concept by the agricultural industry, but not in practice by enough farmers. Scientists who know better consistently have said that voluntary efforts never will be enough.

The state of Michigan, in contrast, declared its much smaller portion of western Lake Erie as impaired. But of course, that sometimes infamous “state to the North” (college football-wise) understands the critical importance of the Great Lakes, it being surrounded by four of the five of them. Unlike the backward business-as-usual approach of political leaders of Ohio.

Categories: Blog Content, News, Ohio – Steve Pollick

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