Calling Lake Erie one of Ohio’s “greatest natural assets,” State Rep. Randy Gardner won support Tuesday for a new Healthy Lake Erie Fund to enhance the effort to fight algae problems in the lake.
The Gardner amendment was approved by the House Finance and Appropriations Committee as part of the Mid-Budget Review Bill that is expected to be signed by Gov. John Kasich following passage in the Senate by the end of May.
“The Healthy Lake Erie Fund says we are serious about taking bigger steps to find solutions to cleaning up the lake,” Gardner said. “This is an environmental issue, but it is also a significant economic and jobs issue facing our region of Ohio.”
Specifically, the new fund will be used to implement recommendations of the state’s Ag Nutrient Task Force that were issued in March, including soil testing, detecting and monitoring phosphorus levels in the Western Lake Erie Basin and a variety of other measures. The amendment received strong bipartisan support by the committee, even though House Democrats opposed the bill with the amendment attached.
“Our state’s new efforts to promote travel and tourism could be diminished if we don’t tackle this issue in a proactive way,” Gardner said. “Let the Healthy Lake Erie Fund be a new beginning toward effective solutions.
“The alternative might be harsh federal mandates and penalties that could impact our businesses, our cities and villages and our farmers in ways that could hurt Ohio’s economic recovery. We can’t afford to let that happen.”
The fund, with a $3 million appropriation, will be administered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources under the leadership of Director Jim Zehringer who has been a key administration official involved in the task force recommendations.