COLUMBUS, Ohio — State senators said Tuesday they plan to fast track a bill intended to reduce dangerous algal blooms in time for the spring growing season.
Senate Bill 1, introduced Monday, contains regulations for farmers, water treatment plant operators and state officials intended to curb algal blooms in Lake Erie that led to 400,000 Ohioans losing access to drinking water last summer. The Senate Agriculture Committee plans to pass the bill in the next two to three weeks.
The new bill retains all of the agriculture language in last session’s House Bill 490, which passed the House but failed to pass the Senate because it contained several controversial changes to other policies.
Bill sponsor Sen. Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican, said he and joint sponsor Sen. Bob Peterson, a Sabina Republican, didn’t add much to the language passed last year with the hope the House will quickly approve the bill. Many of the provisions in House Bill 490 were supported by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council.
Gardner said they’re open to changes to the bill, but requested those changes be thoroughly discussed to avoid controversial additions that could slow down the bill’s passage.
“Let’s minimize the disagreement, let’s bring everybody together as best we can to get something done now and let’s continue to debate other ways we can improve Lake Erie,” Gardner told lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.
Provisions included from previous legislation:
- Prohibits spreading manure and fertilizer on frozen and saturated ground in the Western Lake Erie Basin
- Continues phosphorus monitoring at water treatment plants
- Establishes new requirements for disposal of dredged material in Lake Erie and prohibits the practice after July 1, 2020
- Sets rules on home sewage treatment systems
- Moves the Agriculture Pollution Abatement Program from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture
- Gov. John Kasich proposed similar actions as part of the two-year state budget he released on Monday. And the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee plans to travel to Northwest Ohio as part of work on its own bill.
Gardner said Senate Bill 1 doesn’t attempt to address every water quality issue because the Legislature will spend much time this spring working on the state budget, which includes several water quality provisions.
Senate Bill 1 differs in a few ways:
- Contains an emergency clause to make the law effective by the start of growing season this spring, which is about the same time House Bill 490 would have taken effect.
- Updates Healthy Lake Erie Fund language
- Creates the Office of Harmful Algae Management and Response to bring together agriculture, water treatment plant personnel and local government officials.
- Allows the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency director to allow disposal of dredging materials when “financial, environmental, regulatory, or other factors exist.”
Photo: Ohio Senators are already moving on a plan to address Lake Erie algal bloom and water quality in the wake of last summer’s Toledo-area water crisis. (D’Arcy Egan/The Plain Dealer)
View original article at: Lake Erie algal bloom bill could be law this spring, senators say