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Revised Great Lakes legislation in Ohio strengthens permitting standards, but some say additional protections needed


by Tim Anderson ~ April 2012

A year after legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio lawmakers are taking another crack at passing a bill to establish state-level requirements under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.
Kasich vetoed the 2011 measure because he said it lacked “clear standards for conservation and withdrawals” and did not “allow for sufficient evaluation or monitoring of withdrawals or usage.”
Compared to that legislation, this year’s proposal, HB 473, establishes lower thresholds for when water users must obtain permits for withdrawing water from Lake Erie (2.5 million gallons of water a day vs. 5 millions of gallons under the 2011 bill); groundwater (1 million gallons vs. 2 million gallons); and designated “high-quality” rivers and streams (100,000 gallons vs. 300,000 gallons.)
The new standards would put the state more in line with those in place in some other Great Lakes, the Toledo Blade reports. The Kasich administration has voiced support for HB 473.
Environmental groups, though, say the Ohio legislation stiili needs more protections to protect Ohio's surface water and groundwater. Lacking from the bill, Tracy Sabetta of the National Wildlife Federation writes in this Cleveland Plain Dealer opinion piece, is a provision requiring that withdrawals require “no significant harm" to Lake Erie’s tributaries.
Sara Gosman, who has studied compact implementation for the federation, has said the approach being taken by New York is much more protective. That state’s legislation, passed last year, has lower thresholds before a permit must be obtained, applies the standard to both new and existing users, and allows for the state to review withdrawals to ensure there are no adverse impacts on water resources.