Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 3:23 PM
State legislators and conservationists are at odds over the best way to protect Lake Erie. Ideastream's Rick Jackson reports new bills could change regulations over water extraction.
Ohio lawmakers are considering two rival bills.
One, backed by the business community, would establish the most lenient limits on water extraction of any of the eight Great Lakes states and provinces. A second bill - introduced this week and endorsed by environmentalists - would set stricter limits.
The regulations are required under the Great Lakes compact, a federal statute enacted to block water transfer to drought-prone areas ‘outside’ the lakes region. Both bills would apply extraction limits to the lakes, as well as rivers, streams and groundwater sources.
Josh Knights is with the Nature Conservancy, which supports the lower limits over those proposed in the business-backed plan.
“There is science that’s out there that shows that levels they’re proposing in particular for the streams… will have negative ecological impacts that we’re very concerned about.”
The environmentalists propose limiting water extraction from Lake Erie to 2.5 million gallons per day per customer, half of what the original bill would allow.
Knights says he understands the need for businesses to have adequate access to water, but believes the higher limit could lead to excessively depleted water levels.
“Without a strong permit process in place that allows the Department of Natural Resources to monitor water usage, we won’t have a good idea of when we’re getting too close to a tipping point that we would have a hard time recovering from.”
Both bills allow those that need to exceed the limit to get a special permit - at a cost.
Non Lake Erie states - Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana - allow extracting up to 5 million gallons a day from a lake - in its case Lake Michigan - before permitting kicks in. Lake Erie States generally allow only two million gallons to be taken without registration.
The Coalition for Sustainable Water Management, which backs the higher, 5 million-a-day limit, contends it is NOT a threat to Lake Erie its 10 billion-dollar-a-year recreation and tourism industry, and that it would entice more water-dependent companies to open here.
Rick Jackson, 90.3.
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