Legislators hear Healthy Water Ohio’s water quality bond proposal

Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) calls for the creation of a public-private Ohio Water Trust, funded at $250 million annually, to enact the group’s recommendations for preserving the state’s water assets.

Chaired by Sen. Randy Gardner, the informal legislative panel is looking into what can be done to address threats to Ohio’s water resources, in particular Lake Erie and other lakes and rivers that have been negatively impacted by harmful algal blooms. The panel also heard from state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, who is proposing a $1 billion statewide water bond initiative for voter consideration possibly as early as March.

Work on Healthy Water Ohio started two years ago when Ohio Farm Bureau convened a diverse partnership of water stakeholders to lead the development of a 20- to 30-year Ohio water resource management strategy. More than 200 individuals and organizations ranging from conservation to agriculture to business and industry provided input. The group’s 36-page report describes Ohio’s current water resource conditions and challenges and an action plan that calls for the creation of an Ohio Water Trust with a portion of funding coming from the sale of state bonds.

Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau’s vice president of public policy, noted money from a bond issue should be used to address all of the state’s water resource challenges and not just go toward infrastructure needs, which would use up all the funding quickly.

Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, said the trust would treat the root causes of Ohio’s clean water challenges, be science-based and include both gray and green infrastructure improvements. He said the agricultural community has “shown amazing leadership” in addressing water issues and can be a strong funding partner in finding solutions to Ohio’s water challenges.

“Agriculture is a significant (although not the only) contributor to nutrient loading and can play a key role in identifying and providing meaningful resources to the effort to supplement bonds of other public funding,” he said.

Visit Healthy Water Ohio’s website for details about its findings and recommendations.