Lake Erie Advocates Urge: Enforce Existing Environmental Laws

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CONTACT: Mike Ferner 419-729-7273
Kasich also signed the misnamed “Clean Lake 2020” legislation
Toledo – The following statement is from Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie coordinator, Mike Ferner, in response to Governor Kasich signing an executive order earlier this afternoon to set up “distressed watersheds” in several sub watersheds of the Maumee River in NW Ohio that will rely on Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs), as well as signing the Gardner-Arndt “Clean Lake 2020” bill allocating another $36,000,000 for so-called “conservation practices.”
Governor Kasich and several of his department heads put on a bit of political theater this afternoon in the Ohio Statehouse in an effort to appear like they were exercising bold leadership to help Lake Erie.  Unfortunately, the governor’s actions were costly, unnecessary and highly unlikely to result in any improvement in what causes Lake Erie to go toxic every summer.  Sadly, participants at the Statehouse announcement included representatives of the Ohio Environmental Council and the Lake Erie Foundation, apparently standing in for the Ohio Farm Bureau.
I) “Distressed Watersheds” Do Not Work
Kasich signed the order because, as he admitted, he could not get the proposal through the legislature.  The point, however, is that neither his order nor that legislation are needed.  What is needed and what the governor refuses to do, is to direct the Ohio EPA to simply follow the impaired watershed provisions of the Clean Water Act, as is being done successfully for Chesapeake Bay.
The governor and his directors pointed to Grand Lake St. Mary’s as a success story after a distressed watershed was declared there in 2010.  ODNR Director, James Zehringer, stated there has been “significant reduction since 2011” in nutrient levels following establishment of Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs).
However, the report he referred to states that only 25% of the Grand Lake St. Mary’s watershed was monitored and that, “Overall, reductions following the distressed designation for all parameters ranged from 5 to 35% during medium and high flow periods (with exception of SRP Soluble Reactive Phosphorus).
Soluble Reactive Phosphorus is precisely the agent that responsible for growth of toxic algae blooms.
Additional proof that the distressed watershed approach has not worked for Grand Lake St. Mary’s is found in this Celina newspaper account of a $500,000 project headed by the Ohio DNR to try and make one acre of the 13,500-acre lake swimmable.
Finally, the governor’s order leaves out portions of NW Ohio that should be covered in any pollution inventory.
II) Nutrient Management Plans Do Not Work
Pam Taylor, Research Coordinator for Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan, responded to Kasich’s actions today by saying, “This is a sad day for Lake Erie.  Today’s actions are not going to help, they are simply more of the same that hasn’t worked.  NMPs have been available for years and have been used in Michigan for years.  The biggest problem with them is that farmers don’t follow them and there is no enforceability.  It’s far better to do comprehensive water testing to see what’s going into the streams.”
Comprehensive water sampling, or a pollution inventory, is exactly what the Clean Water Act requires, followed by Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) established to limit what can be released from all sources.
TMDLs are legally enforceable.  Timetables and deadlines established by the Clean Water Act are legally enforceable.  Distressed watershed schemes are voluntary and we know that doesn’t work.   
III) The Politics of Today’s event
Kasich’s statements today proved that he is doing all in his power to deflect attention away from the Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that annually dump hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated feces, urine and antibiotic-resistant bacteria on fields draining into Lake Erie.  The governor referred repeatedly to the “fertilizer industry” and avoided using the word “manure” until asked by a reporter.  At that point the live video feed went black and Kasich’s response was unintelligible.
His administration, the Farm Bureau and the two environmental groups standing in for the Farm Bureau today are intent on not challenging the powerful interests who continue to benefit from the status quo by externalizing their costs, in this case by using Lake Erie as their free toilet for animal waste.

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