Ohio Makes a Mockery of the Great Lakes Compact

photo: lake erie

The OSU Football team isn't the only embarrassment to the state of Ohio right now. If the Governor of Ohio signs into law the legislation passed last week by the Ohio legislature, it will be a sad day for the Great Lakes. While its not everyday that the Michigan League of Conservation Voters writes about our neighbors to the south, this particular bill is so detrimental that it is sure to impact Lake Erie, and the Great Lakes Compact, indefinitely .

Despite growing concerns from Ohio anglers, charter boat captains, environmental-conservation organizations, scientists, small business owners, former Ohio Governor Voinovich, U.S senators, EPA directors, editorial boards of major Ohio newspapers, and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, the Ohio legislature voted for a bill that makes a mockery of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, the 2008 law passed by Congress and every state (including Ohio).

The Ohio bill opens the door for big business to essentially drain Lake Erie. The bill includes language that shifts ownership of Lake Erie bottomlands and water to a commodity. Power plants, irrigation systems, mining sites, bottlers, and other large water diverters would be allowed to up to 5 million gallons of water a day from the lake, more than 2 million from rivers or groundwater, or more than 300,000 from designated "high quality" streams.

Putting this in perspective, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have generally set limits of 100,000 gallons of water use per day before a permit is required. Minnesota's standard is 10,000 gallons per day. Ohio would have the most unregulated water-use plan of any state in the compact. If Governor Kasich signs this bill into law, the state would essentially turn Lake Erie --- the shallowest, warmest, and most biologically productive lake of the Great Lakes into a freshwater free-for-all. It could lower the Lakes' water levels affecting ports, marinas and wetland habitats including important fish spawning grounds.

Ohio lawmakers believe this law will give them a competitive economic advantage and that businesses will flock to Ohio to escape water regulations in other states.

But as Andy Buchbaum, Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation, writes, “the only businesses that will be attracted to Ohio are the water-wasters: the companies who are looking for short-term profits over long-term sustainability; the businesses who will use up Ohio’s precious resources and leave.

The businesses who are mobile and decide where to locate based on quality of life will move to another Great Lakes state, where the Great Lakes are protected, where the state has a commitment to protecting inland lakes and streams from depletion and pollution.

The Great Lakes Compact was developed under the premise that the Great Lakes States and Canadian Provinces share a tremendous, fragile resource, and that heedless withdrawals will only create massive long-term damages, a situation that the Compact was designed to prevent. What right does Ohio have to break this Compact, and put the rest of the Great Lakes states at risk? 

Many organizations and individuals within the Great Lakes Basin are calling Ohio's Governor Kasich (614-466-3555) urging him to veto this bill. Call now to show Michigan is watching, too... and not just their football program.