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Great Lakes Article:

County could get access to Lake Erie water supply
By Al Lawrence
News Journal of Central Ohio
05/09/03


ASHLAND -- An 8-year-old moratorium on new connections to Rural Lorain County Water Authority lines running through Ashland County could be lifted in late 2004.

Any future expansion of water service in northern townships likely depends on formation of a county water authority. County commissioners learned of new developments during a meeting Thursday with authority general manager Tim Mahoney and director of development Becky Haines.

Mahoney told commissioners the moratorium will end if the Great Lakes Council of Governors approves an annex to the Great Lakes Charter that gives the council authority, under the federal Water Resource Development Act of 1986, to control the amount of water exported from the Great Lakes watershed.

Mahoney said a preliminary proposal would allow states to regulate requests to take up to 3 million gallons of water per day out of the watershed, with larger amounts considered by the council.

"They want to be careful that the Great Lakes don't end up in Las Vegas, or Phoenix, or L.A., or Saudi Arabia, for that matter," Mahoney said.

"But we have to be able to come to an equitable solution so that the water can be used in the area adjacent to the Great Lakes, like northern Ashland County."

In exchange, he said the states and provinces would be required to do projects to improve the quality of the water flowing back into the lakes. Projects could include the purchase of land along streams to create zones to prevent harmful runoff.

Mahoney said Rural Lorain is working with a Chicago consultant that received a $125,000 Great Lakes Protection Fund grant to study how to form the improvement programs. He said the authority was chosen, along with a large water authority serving suburban Milwaukee, because it has been aggressive about the issue.

"You folks in Ashland County are known all over the Great Lakes because of this study that was done," Mahoney said. "A lot of these instances in Orange and Jackson Townships and the Village of Polk are mentioned in this study, which has been reviewed by all of the Great Lakes governors and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec."

If the changes are approved, Mahoney said Rural Lorain has asked to divert from Lake Erie an additional 500,000 gallons of water per day.

Mahoney also cautioned that, although the authority board anticipates the amount of newly-diverted water would meet its needs for the next 20 to 30 years, it would prefer further expansion of service in Ashland County by selling water to a new public or private water district, rather than extending its own system.

Commissioner Marilyn Byers was pleased with Mahoney's report.

"You, today, are giving us the best hope we have seen yet," she said. "The best thing for us to do is get started with a water district and then, if we have a district in place and have to ditch this (diversion) and go with a reservoir we still have the district."

In other business, Solid Waste District coordinator Dan Scott told commissioners he has developed new rules and a schedule of new charges for the district's annual household hazardous waste, tire and electronics collection day July 12 at the Ashland County Fairgrounds.


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