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Great Lakes Article:

Public can discuss Great Lakes plan
By Bob Downing
Akron Beacon Journal
Published August 9th, 2004


The state of Ohio will hold two public hearings Sept. 21 in Northeast Ohio on a new plan to keep the Great Lakes healthy and full of water.

The Ohio hearings are part of a 90-day public comment period that ends Oct. 18 on what is called the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact.

Eight states and two Canadian provinces agreed on the plan, which has come under fire from some industry groups.

The plan is designed to prevent exporting large volumes of water from the lakes -- but it doesn't ban the practice entirely.

Banning water diversions was rejected because it might not have survived legal challenges, officials said.

The proposal would allow new or increased withdrawals from the Great Lakes only if the water is immediately returned to the Great Lakes and only if the condition of the lakes is improved.

Conserving water would be required for any new community seeking to withdraw Great Lakes water.

The plan could have a major impact on Akron because the city lies on the divide between Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

Akron gets its drinking water from the Cuyahoga River within the Lake Erie Basin and provides water across the divide to parts of Akron and surrounding communities that drain into the Ohio River.

If Akron wanted to expand the area served into communities like Green or Norton or to provide more water to Springfield, Coventry and Copley townships, it would have to go through a tougher permitting process, said Akron's water department spokesman Mike McGlinchy.

Akron currently has permission to pump 4.8 million gallons of water a day to the three townships, he said. However, they are only using about 1 million gallons a day.

Most of that water is returned to the Cuyahoga River from Akron's sewage plant but some is discharged into the Tuscarawas River, which drains into the Ohio.

The Sept. 21 meetings will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Brecksville Community Center, 1 Community Drive, Brecksville.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will hold additional meetings in late August and September in Toledo, Columbus, Geneva, Norwalk and Findlay.

After the public comment period ends, the agreements may be revised and will be submitted to the governors of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota for final approval.

If approved by the states and by Congress, the water agreement would be binding, but officials say that may be years away.

The Great Lakes are the world's largest source of fresh surface water -- with 20 percent of the world's total.

Lake Erie provides drinking water to 3 million Ohioans, supports a $1 billion sport and commercial fishery and fuels $2.5 billion in travel and tourism.

Ohio environmentalists are holding their own meetings to brief the public and prepare them for the state hearings.

Those meetings, arranged by the Ohio Environmental Council and the National Wildlife Federation, include an Aug. 19 meeting in Summit County.

It will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Boston Store in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That's at 1548 Boston Mills Road east of the Cuyahoga River in the hamlet of Boston. To register, contact Molly Flanagan at 614-487-7506.

The two eco-groups are in favor of the Great Lakes plan but want to see the rules tightened.


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Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com

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