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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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        The state capital appropriations bill that passed last week in the Ohio House of Representatives will include funding for programs designed to help clean Lake Erie, State Senator Randy Gardner and Representative Steve Arndt said.

        House Bill 529 passed Wednesday in the House by a vote of 92-3 and now goes before the Senate Finance Committee.

        In addition to funding for historic preservation, tourism job development, lowering infant mortality and opiate addiction, school district renovations and other projects, two other provisions in the bill will benefit efforts to improve water quality, the legislators said.

        The Clean Ohio Fund was allocated $100 million and the Healthy Lake Erie Initiative is to receive $10 million.

        Sen. Gardner first sponsored the initiative four years ago to reduce the disposal of dredged materials in Lake Erie.

        According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, harbors along Ohio’s north shore must be dredged to keep the shipping channels open and about 1.5 million tons of material are dredged annually. Historically, much of the dredged material was dumped in the open waters of Lake Erie but a bill signed last year by Gov. John Kasich requires the state to set rules for re-using dredged sediment other than dumping it in waters of the lake’s western basin.

        The dumping ban will go into effect by July 1, 2020.        

        Sen. Gardner said he expects the Toledo harbor to receive some of the $10 million.

        “The initiative is mainly designed for federal navigational harbors. There are seven of them and Toledo is one of them so I believe Toledo will be in line for some additional support. The City of Huron (Erie County) also has some dredging issues and they would be in line for it as well,” he said. “The federal harbors are a priority because we need support from the Army Corps of Engineers to do these projects. They are primarily in charge of dredging issues so we are collaborating with the corps.”

        Sen. Gardner said he still supports putting a state bond issue before voters to fund projects to improve water quality. He floated the idea several years ago but found little support from Gov. Kasich.

        “It would be for $1 billion over a 10-year period for an Ohio Clean Water Bond Issue,” he said. “We’re still working with several groups and have gotten support but haven’t actually put it on the ballot yet. The governor isn’t convinced a bond issue is the way to go. I am. There is plenty of work to do; not only for Lake Erie quality but helping communities with water treatment plants, wastewater support and to help agriculture be part of the solution.”

        Rep. Arndt said the $100 million in appropriations for the Clean Ohio Program, includes $75 million for the Public Works Commission’s Green Space Conservation Program and $12.5 million each for the Department of Natural Resources’ Clean Ohio Trails Program and the Department of Agriculture’s Easement Purchase Program.

        Gardner said he expects the bill to get a floor vote in the senate this week.

 

 

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