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Statement of Adam Rissien, OEC Director of Agricultural and Water Policy on Healthy Water Ohio Strategic Plan Release

Adam Rissien, September 3, 2015

Today’s release of a statewide water management strategic plan from the Healthy Water Ohio (HWO) initiative shows a broad commitment to clean and abundant water resources for all Ohioans.  With a focus on research, incentives, collaboration and funding, the strategy includes numerous recommendations, many of which the Ohio Environmental Council supports. Chief among these is the creation of an Ohio Water Trust and a bond-initiative to help fund a variety of needs; a review of incentive programs that provide financial support for the voluntary adoption of conservation practices to ensure they are effective; and strengthening enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

The HWO strategy could certainly be part of a solution to Ohio’s perennial algae problems, and inform Governor Kasich’s implementation plan to achieve the joint goal by Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario to reduce phosphorus entering the western Lake Erie basin by 40 percent.  In partnership with several organizations, the Ohio Environmental Council has offered a variety of recommendations to help achieve this goal, including expanding inspection and enforcement within the Ohio Department of Agriculture to stop “bad actors” from polluting our waterways, as well as calling for more inspections of home sewage septic systems to find defective systems that leach waste into our rivers and lakes.

The HWO strategy also calls for “equitable and reasonable regulatory practices,” which is in line with our recommendation for agricultural producers to develop and follow plans that help prevent runoff pollution, and match fertilizer and manure application rates to what crops actually need to grow. While numerous farmers and livestock facilities follow such plans, the progress they make to improve water quality is being hindered by producers in the same watersheds who lack them or do not implement them properly. That is why a new law requiring these plans is certainly fair and equitable, but farmers and local officials will need time and additional resources to help develop them, which is why new sources of funding will be necessary and should be part of HWO’s proposed bond-initiative.

The Ohio Environmental Council is encouraged by components of the HWO strategic plan. We look forward to seeing more details about how to improve accountability, expand equitability and increase capacity to ensure Ohio’s waters provide a clean and safe resource well into the future.