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Farmers may soon learn the details of Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, a 10-year plan to invest in targeted, long-term solutions to statewide water quality challenges. Initial funding in the new two-year state budget is $172 million.
In early September, DeWine’s Lake Erie Commission Director Joy Mulinex told Ohio Farm Bureau’s state policy development committee she hoped the plan would be unveiled by the end of the month and previewed some general concepts farmers can expect. Mulinex is leading H2Ohio.
“The idea for Lake Erie is to use funds for prevention… making sure nutrients stay on the land,” she said. H2Ohio funds will complement Natural Resources Conservation Service programs and existing state programs to expand the use of best management practices.
Mulinex said farmers should expect an emphasis on creating and restoring wetlands along Lake Erie’s shoreline and in agricultural areas. The state is working with conservation groups to identify locations where landowners “want to see wetlands on their property,” she said.
H2Ohio also will fund research to develop innovative approaches to controlling nutrient loss. Mulinex said there will be an emphasis on monitoring “so that we better understand what’s happening on the landscape” and can adapt to what the data shows.
Saying that farm nutrients “are not the only source,” Mulinex said H2Ohio will also deal with failing septic systems and outdated sewage treatment systems. While Lake Erie is a priority, Mulinex said H2Ohio will address challenges across the state.
Mulinex credited Ohio Farm Bureau for initiating the H2Ohio concept as early as 2015 when the organization launched the Healthy Water Ohio plan. OFBF Executive Vice President Adam Sharp said that during the DeWine administration’s development of H2Ohio, Farm Bureau has provided research data and suggestions on “where we must fill gaps in order to truly provide farmers with reliable, science-based solutions.”
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