Groups Seek $250 Million for Ohio Water Quality Improvement

A coalition of businesses, education and environmental groups is calling for the creation of a $250 million trust to protect water quality in Ohio.

The Healthy Water Ohio coalition recommended the creation of a private-public Ohio Water Trust in September, saying it would need at least that much money to help pay for research and monitoring, water quality infrastructure improvements and education.

The group has backed the idea of borrowing $100 million a year to put into improving water quality in the state. Officials said funds for the trust could come from several avenues including boating and fishing fees, bond money and private donations, though members of the coalition have warned that it is too early to discuss specific funding mechanisms.

The initiative was launched less than a month before toxins emitted by decaying algae in Lake Erie cut off the water supply for hundreds of thousands of residents in Ohio and Michigan. Some money potentially could go toward farmers who face new laws attempting to reduce nutrient runoff from manure and fertilizers that can contribute to algal blooms.

?We looked at a broad number of things for water quality, and practice on farms is part of that, whether it?s infrastructure such as manure-handling systems,? said Steve Hirsch, president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, which led the coalition.

Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio and a coalition member, said bond money should not pay 100 percent of the cost of farmers? compliance. ?They should have some skin in the game to make this valuable,? he said.

Healthy Water Ohio received input from more than 200 people and organizations, according to the coalition. Its 16-member committee represents several areas including agriculture, business and education.
Dave Spangler, a charter boat captain, discussed the effects of water quality issues in Lake Erie in a presentation to the coalition. He said he?s not opposed to the fund but wants to see some of the money.

?I?m a little concerned with doing the same thing over and over,? Spangler said, stressing that he hoped a chunk of any funding generated by the coalition would go toward industries that had suffered disproportionate economic damage.

Some information contained in this story was taken from an Associated Press report in September.

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