Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes need the Ohio Senate's help now. Otherwise, Gov. John Kasich will have to veto another bill to provide for water withdrawals that doesn't do the job.
The legislation must, but currently doesn't, abide by the Great Lakes regional water compact that includes Ohio and seven other states. Former Republican governors Bob Taft and George Voinovich, who were prime movers behind the adoption of the landmark water-use agreement, have said the bill is still so excessively favorable to industry that it will invite lawsuits from other states.
It isn't enough merely to say that this year's version is better than the embarrassingly bad Lake Erie bill that Mr. Kasich vetoed last year. Before senators vote on the bill approved by the House, they need to strengthen its safeguards,
Scientists, boaters, anglers, and other conservationists properly seek greater protection for the groundwater and tributaries that replenish Lake Erie. An amendment that would require the state to decide on water-use permits for most streams based on proposed average withdrawals over 30 days, instead of a too-long 90-day period, is a good start. High-quality streams such as the Sandusky River need even more protection.
The House bill imposes too many obstacles to public challenges of permit applications by such industries as mining, farming, and water bottling. Its chief sponsor is state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), who has interests in several water-related businesses.
What Ohio does with the water withdrawal bill will be key to the success or failure of the Great Lakes compact. That agreement aims to manage withdrawals responsibly within the region.
No state other than Michigan has more of its land within the Great Lakes watershed than Ohio. By ratifying the Great Lakes agreement in 2008, Congress effectively relinquished federal control and gave the region the right to determine appropriate use of the world's largest source of fresh surface water.
State lawmakers should protect Lake Erie on behalf of all Ohioans, not permit its exploitation by special interests. The Great Lakes need more than an illusion of sound water management. If the Senate refuses to fix what the House didn't, that responsibility again will fall to Governor Kasich.
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