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Great Lakes Article:

State draws up plans to shield inland water
Voluntary watershed proposals to be presented at open houses
By Sandra Svoboda
Toledo Blade

What happens dozens of miles inland can affect the quality of Lake Erieís water, which is why state officials have drafted plans for better development in the watershed.

The idea is promoting "balanced growth" - balancing the needs of the economy and the needs of the environment.

Officials will present the plans later this month and in February.

"It was a focus on trying to maintain or improve the water quality in Lake Erie and the Lake Erie Basin while also sustaining economic development and growth within the region," said Scott Zody, deputy director for recreation and resource management for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

"It goes beyond the waterfront," Mr. Zody said. "Water quality starts not at the shoreline but up in the watershed, into the streams that flow into the lake."

The goal is to reconcile plans for protecting the waterfront, while allowing economic development. The plan would address such issues as how much pavement is used in developments, when trees are removed, and agricultural practices.

The draft plans, drawn up by a task force, will be presented at open houses. The plans will be presented Jan. 28 in Bay Village, just west of Cleveland, at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, 28728 Wolf Rd. Toledo will hear the same plans on Feb. 3 at the Ohio Lake Erie Commission office, 1 Maritime Plaza. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.

"There will be a presentation of what the Balanced Growth Initiative is," said Jeff Busch, executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. More information will be available, and a number of the panelists will be there to talk about the details of the initiative.

Feedback will be considered before the recommendations are adopted, perhaps in March, Dr. Busch said.

While the draft recommendations have proposals for watershed planning, partnerships, local and state government roles, and implementation, officials stressed that they will be voluntary.

"The key to it is making a set of incentives that are viable, worth peopleís while," he said. "If the incentives are there, we think it would worthwhile for communities and watershed to undertake the plans."

The specific incentives, such as allowing communities to receive favorable consideration when applying for grants if they follow the plan, will be developed during the year, he said.

"These are just recommendations at this point," Dr. Busch said. "Thatís why weíre going through this public review process to refine them and improve upon them."

Mr. Zody said protecting Lake Erie and promoting development in northern Ohio are not mutually exclusive goals, "but it will take some effort to make it happen," he said.

None of the recommendations will be mandatory for local communities.

"Weíve tried to respect and recognized Ohioís strong home rule tradition in that any program thatís going to affect economic development has to be locally driven. This is not something that can be a top-down or state agency-driven program. Thatís not going to work," Mr. Zody said.

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