Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Matt Markey

New reservoir no place for red herring

FREMONT — At a meeting 10 days from now, the city council here will likely vote on an ordinance that would ban small gas-powered fishing boats from the new reservoir on the premise that their motors present a serious threat to the municipal drinking water supply.

It is not on the agenda yet, but subsequent votes should be held to also ban Canada geese, coots, blue gills, catfish, waterbugs, bald eagles, and frogs, because as we all know, they tend to use their swimming hole as their lavatory, and that has to be a bigger threat.

What’s next — asking the taxpayers of Fremont, who are already on the hook for a chunk of the $40 million cost of the reservoir, for a hundred million more to pay for a dome, since that will be the only way to keep the wildlife guano out of the water?

The gas motor ban seems to have some support from the political soap box, where a good smokescreen is always welcomed when a project with this many zeroes on the end more than doubles its original budget.

There are also some well-intentioned citizens who have voiced opposition to gas motors. Maybe everyone should take a step back from the flat earth ledge and look at the science, or the lack of it.

Findlay, Fostoria, Bucyrus, Mansfield, and dozens of other cities draw drinking water from reservoirs where gas-powered motors are permitted, and no health-related concerns have been alleged, expressed, or documented. Why would Fremont’s pricey new basin be any different?

When Division of Wildlife chief Scott Zody said the contention that gas motors would contaminate the reservoir had “no evidentiary background,” he was right. Some 11 million people get their drinking water from Lake Erie, and there are thousands of motor boats out there every day.

There are legit concerns with Erie’s algae and nitrates, but boat motors? Where’s the evidence this is a looming problem?

Zody said that raising this issue was a “red herring.” That expression refers to information used to mislead or distract. In this case, the “water quality” drum banging is more than a red herring. It could be a whole school of the smelly little fish.

The water that has collected in Fremont’s hole in the ground is not Evian or Perrier. It’s also not the stuff rolling out of the Rockies in Coors commercials. Like most of Ohio’s reservoirs, this one gathers rain and runoff.

In Fremont and elsewhere, that water needs to pass through a treatment facility before it comes out of your kitchen faucet. That process makes certain your drinking water is free of fish slime, goose droppings, or outboard motor exhaust. And in a reservoir that holds roughly 700 million gallons, a lot of dilution also takes place before the treatment even starts.

We also need to remind everyone that a deal is a deal. The city took $5 million from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to help pay for the reservoir — money from gas tax revenues — with the understanding by the ODNR that gas-powered boats would be permitted.

It seems the people who paid those taxes should not be hornswoggled out of the opportunity to use small gas motors on the reservoir.

Nobody wants polluted water. Fishermen certainly don’t want it, but they do want places to fish, and allowing them to use 10 horsepower or smaller motors here seems sensible. It works many other places. Let’s hope Fremont doesn’t compound its reservoir woes by stocking the place with red herring.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: or 419-724-6068.

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