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Great Lakes Water Compact advisory committee begins writing rules on industrial use
Plain Dealer
Michael Scott
March 06, 2009

Columbus - Ohio's first step toward putting the Great Lakes Water Compact into effect was strangely similar Thursday to last year's effort to get it approved in the Ohio Senate - with Geauga County Republican Sen. Tim Grendell providing opposition.

The compact, an eight-state, two-country agreement that became law Dec. 8, is generally aimed at two issues: preventing diversion of large amounts of water out of the Great Lakes and better conserving water within the basin.

On Thursday, a 28-member compact advisory committee met for the first time to begin writing regulations to make that happen. It will write regulations for large industrial users of water and voluntary conservation guidelines for anyone who uses water within the Lake Erie watershed.

The watershed line runs roughly across the top third of the state, including all or part of 27 of Ohio's 88 counties. Water that falls north of that line drains into Lake Erie; south of that line, it eventually makes its way to the Ohio River.

But Grendell - who last year nearly single-handedly stalled passage of the compact in Ohio over private-property and water-rights issues - complained when Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sean Logan told the committee that its rules would eventually be in effect for all Ohio residents.

"This is a big issue because I don't think that's what the legislators had in mind," Grendell said. "Today the director confirmed my concerns that whatever regulations this committee finally comes up with will apply to all 88 counties. I'm pretty sure that people in southern Ohio are going to be very surprised to hear that."

Logan said the committee would stick to regulating within the Lake Erie basin - but agreed that eventually the ODNR would have to apply them statewide.

"We need to think about how it would be applicable throughout the state," he said. "In other words, the goals that we're accomplishing are equally admirable goals for the Ohio River basin as well and that's wise use and conservation."

Exactly what those regulations will look like will be hashed out by the committee over the next 18 months, but they are expected to affect only users with a capacity of more than 100,000 gallons a day - the threshold at which Ohio already requires registration.

The committee must send by Dec. 8 the list of Ohio users of more than 100,000 gallons a day to a regional body representing the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces. Included in that baseline list will be the largest user - steel company ArcelorMittal, with a capacity of 343 million gallons a day - down to moderate users like farmers and small companies.

Among the 28 committee members are nine representing business or development interests; nine representing government; six representing environmental groups; and one each from science, education, agriculture and an at-large member representing the public.


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