After significant revision, new rules limiting large-scale withdrawals from Lake Erie by factories and industries have cleared the legislature, and Governor Kasich says he’ll approve them. The limits will bring Ohio into compliance with the Great lakes Compact, an agreement between 8 states and two Canadian provinces to manage withdrawals and limit exportation of water outside the region. Ideastream’s Bill Rice reports.
Governor Kasich vetoed an earlier measure that would have allowed businesses to withdraw up to 5 million gallons a day from the lake. Any amount above that would have required a special permit.
5 million is too much, said two former Ohio governors and officials from other Great Lakes States.
The just-passed bill cuts that amount in half, to 2.5 million gallons, and also places a 1 million gallon limit on withdrawals from inland sources such as rivers and groundwater, instead of 2 million as in the original bill. Withdrawal limits would be based on 90 day averages.
Three republican senators joined most democrats to oppose the bill, which passed the Senate 20-12. Capri Cafaro, the only democratic senator that voted for it, believes the measure adequately balances environmental and business concerns.
CAFARO: “This bill did a decent job not only protecting our natural resources, but our economic resource that is access to water.”
However, environmental groups say the revised limits are still too lax, especially for rivers and tributaries. Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council says removing large quantities of water in a short time can significantly harm fish stocks.
MEYER: “What we’ve heard from scientists, and what we know, is that fish really need the right amount of water at the right time,” Meyer said. “And fish can become stuck – fish and other wildlife actually – can become stuck in these shallow, heated pools and perish within hours, not even days, within hours.”
Meyer also objects to language allowing only those with property or economic interests to lodge a complaint over withdrawals, excluding those who use the water recreationally.
Backers of that provision say it prevents out of state groups from holding up permits for new facilities with lawsuits.