H20 fund a big part of state response to algae problem

Larry Limpf

State Senator Teresa Fedor said she supports the governor’s H2O fund initiative but wants to also see more of a partnership with local communities in addressing challenges to the lake.
“I am supportive of the H2Ohio initiative funded in the state budget and also the federal push to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The state and federal governments need to partner with farmers and communities when it comes to addressing Lake Erie’s algae issues and other potential health risks.
“Farmers face enough issues, including Ohio's shrinking dairy industry, rain-delayed planting, and climate change. The burden of fixing Lake Erie cannot be put completely on their shoulders. The blame does not rest solely with them – less manure has been administered this year due to rain, yet we still see blooms growing. There are a lot of factors at play here and runoff is just one of them. This issue calls for a comprehensive response. It affects thousands of lives, in multiple states and it should be taken very seriously,” she said.
House Bill 7, which would create the H2Ohio Trust Fund, is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.
The fund would be established as a custodial fund, not in the state treasury, meaning that appropriations of the legislature would not be required to disburse money from the trust fund, according to an analysis by the Legislative Service Commission.
The bill limits disbursements to $100 million per fiscal year and the Ohio Water Development Authority would be the trustee of the fund. An advisory council would coordinate grant and loan programs and oversee water quality initiatives paid for by the fund.
In his May 23 testimony before the House Finance Committee, Pete Bucher, of the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said funding is needed for a statewide plan.
“Through things like the U.S. Action Plan for Lake Erie, Ohio has committed to agricultural conservation on a voluntary basis. Ohio will not achieve our goal of 40 percent reduction in phosphorus entering the lake by 2025 without substantial state funding from the proposals being considered this year. Ohio needs to fund and implement a statewide conservation plan to keep nutrients and pollutants out of our waterways for all Ohioans that drink from, recreate on, and make a living due to our incredible natural resources,” he said.
Gov. Mike DeWine introduced the H2Ohio fund proposal in March as part of his biennium budget.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the governor, last week said H2Ohio will expand on the Clean Lake 2020 program.
“The Ohio Department of Agriculture rolled that program out earlier this year and the department also received funding in the budget signed by Gov. DeWine. H2Ohio will build on that programming to get more best-management practices adopted,” he said.


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