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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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        State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D- Oregon), last week expressed concerns that the input of urban communities will be left out of a newly formed joint legislative committee to address harmful algal blooms at Lake Erie’s Western Basin. The committee comes in response to public and industry pressure to further study one of the most critical issues facing the state.

 

        “Access to clean water is a fundamental right for all Ohioans, and unless we act swiftly, our lake is in real trouble,” said Sheehy. “Though I disagree with the need for another study – we know the cause and best practices to contain this crisis – it is my hope that committee leaders appoint members representing the victims of this crisis instead of stacking the deck in favor of special interests.”

        Earlier this year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency released a report demonstrating that in key watersheds like the Maumee and the Sandusky, more than 80 percent of nutrient pollution fueling the harmful blooms is caused by agricultural operations. Sheehy accused Ohio’s powerful agriculture lobby, as well as the GOP, created an imbalance against urban communities – forcing Ohio taxpayers to pay $3.5 billion since 2011 to clean up a crisis they did not create.

        “I was there in 2014 when my community lost access to water for three days,” said Sheehy. “Since then, area residents have paid the price and dealth with serious consequences to a crisis they did not create. At the same time, the companies causing the pollution are refusing to act unless taxpayer dollars are going to pay for it. If legislators listened to working class families the way they do special interests, we would have seen serious action long ago.”

Federal funds

        In other news on Lake Erie, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Oh) announced last week that he secured $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Brown also secured $1.3 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $864 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The funds will be included in the final Senate bill that appropriates federal funds for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate bill was expected to pass last week.

        “Ohioans rely on Lake Erie for jobs, clean drinking water, and a place to enjoy with their families,” said Brown. He added that he and Sen. Rob Portman were able to ensure the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was at full strength as communities continue their work on keeping Lake Erie clean.

        “Separately, there are communities across Ohio that are struggling to afford expensive – but vital-renovations to outdated water and sewer systems. This increased funding for Ohio will provide financial relief for Ohio communities, boosting economic development and ensuring cleaner water,” said Brown.

        The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, according to Brown, is a highly successful program that has jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. Brown joined Portman and a bipartisan group of members on the Senate Great Lakes Task Force in writing a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior Environment, and related agencies, to request full funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

        The Trump and Obama administrations both tried to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Senators Brown and Portman worked together to ensure it was fully funded in the appropriations bill for the rest of the fiscal year.

        The Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs provide funding to federal-state partnerships that help ensure local water sources are protected from pollution. These state revolving fund programs allow state governments to provide communities with financial assistance, including loans and grants, to build or update water and sewer systems.

       

       

       

 

 

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