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Great Lakes Article:

Resolutions aimed at regulating Lake Erie siphoning
By Leo Shane III
The Ohio News-Messenger

State lawmakers are considering taking a stand against the possible overuse of Lake Erie water by formally backing a regional agreement concerning Great Lakes usage.

A resolution sponsored by House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, would applaud the International Joint Commission for its efforts to protect the waters of the Great Lakes.

It also urges the finalization of a 2001 non-binding agreement to regulate removal and distribution of that freshwater.

"Without these standards, mismanagement of Lake Erie waters threatens the ecology, economy and future of Ohio's water supplies," Redfern said.

An identical resolution from Sen. Larry Mumper, R-Marion, is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

During a committee hearing on Redfern's proposal Wednesday, the Ohio Environmental Council urged passage of the resolution, saying the state could become the region's standard-bearer for protecting the Great Lakes.

"The Great Lakes are essential not only to the environment and wildlife but to Ohio's economy," said Jack Shaner, spokesman for the council. "We need to be wise stewards."

Even though the five lakes represent 20 percent of the world's freshwater supply, only about 1 percent of their total volume is replaced each year, Shaner said.

As recently as 1998, private companies have looked into siphoning millions of gallons from the lakes and selling it as drinking water to places as far away as Asia.

Shaner said without regional enforcement such plans could become reality.

So far no binding regional agreements have been finalized. Gov. Bob Taft currently serves as chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors and Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is chairman of a committee charged with creating those cooperative standards.

Both Shaner and Redfern said support for the resolution would illustrate Ohio's willingness to back conservation efforts, an important symbolic gesture considering Taft's leadership role.

Orest Holubec, spokes-man for Taft, said the governor supports the resolution as a way to bring more attention to the issue of creating regional protections for the Great Lakes.

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