Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Legislation to Permit Water Withdrawal Regulatory Program Passes Ohio House

COLUMBUS—State Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) today announced the Ohio House’s passage of House Bill 231, which will implement Ohio’s first-ever water withdrawal regulatory program as required by the Great Lakes Compact.
House Bill 231 allows Ohioans to utilize and invest in fresh-water resources without jeopardizing Ohio’s lakes and rivers. It will work in accordance with the Great Lakes Compact, which has been adopted in all eight Great Lakes border states and specifically in Ohio in 2008 as a way to prevent diversions of water to areas outside of the Great Lakes Basin.
“House Bill 231 recognizes Ohio’s fresh water as a job-creating economic asset while meeting Ohio’s obligations under the Compact with respect to the management of the waters of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin,” said Wachtmann. “Ohio is required to implement a regulatory program according to the Compact, and House Bill 231 does so in a manner that promotes good stewardship of the water resource, protects existing private property rights, and promotes economic development and job creation in Ohio’s hard-hit industrial corridor.”
House Bill 231 focuses particularly on the decrease in percent of runoff from Ohio to the Lake Erie Watershed. If a withdrawal from Lake Erie does not exceed 1.5 percent of the annual runoff to the watershed, it is presumed that the withdrawal does not cause a significant adverse impact. Similarly, if a withdrawal from groundwater or a river or stream does not exceed .75 percent of the annual runoff to the Lake Erie Watershed, it is presumed that this withdrawal does not have a substantial effect.
“By using the long-term mean annual runoff as a measurement, House Bill 231 ensures that businesses in the steel, utility, pulp and paper, automobile, agriculture, horticulture aggregate, chemical, and petroleum industries are not prevented from developing in the lake region,” Wachtmann said.
House Bill 231 also sets the threshold levels that facilities must meet before they are pulled into the regulatory program. Additionally, though it is not required under the Compact, the legislation provides protection to a number of small, high-quality streams by lowering the threshold and establishes more restrictive rules regulating those withdrawals. It also requires facilities that obtain permits to adopt best management practices that are environmentally and economically sound, among other provisions.
The legislation passed by with a bipartisan vote and will now move to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.