Lawmakers near compromise on Lake Erie algal bloom bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio — State lawmakers are close to reaching a compromise on dueling bills aimed at curbing toxic algae in Lake Erie, House Republicans said Wednesday.

House Bill 61 sponsor Jim Buchy, a Greenville Republican, said there’s been extensive work among House and Senate leaders to come up with a bill that will reduce algal blooms in the lake.

“The provisions that have been altered so far are making the package stronger,” Buchy said. “We will continue to focus on reduction of phosphorous input which creates more algae in Lake Erie.”

Lawmakers on the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee plan to restore language that prohibits dumping of dredge material in all of Lake Erie by 2020, which was changed in the House version of the plan.

Committee Chairman Brian Hill, a Zanesville Republican, said Wednesday that lawmakers are still discussing differences between House and Senate provisions governing when farmers can spread manure and fertilizer.

Both chambers have proposed to ban the spreading fertilizer and manure on frozen and saturated soil in the Western Lake Erie basin and to impose fines for as much as $10,000.

But the bill passed by the House would allow farmers to avoid future penalties if they first requested assistance from state water and soil officials — even if they had already violated the law.

Environmental groups said the language would create a loophole for violators, and a spokesman for Gov. John Kasich indicated that and other changes were not in line with the governor’s views.

Hill said the language was intended to give farmers adequate time to comply with the law, which may require them to buy silos and other equipment to store manure during winter months. Hill said the emergency clause in the Senate’s plan, Senate Bill 1, would punish farmers and will be scrapped from the compromise legislation.

Hill said he plans to pass the bill out of committee early next week for a House vote either Wednesday or Thursday.


Photo: Lawmakers on the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee said they’re close to reaching a compromise with the Senate on provisions limiting when farmers can spread fertilizer and manure in Northwest Ohio. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

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