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Published: Friday, 11/18/2011

Kasich bill limits rates of water withdrawal


COLUMBUS -- A new Great Lakes bill is headed for the Statehouse.

Gov. John Kasich's proposal reportedly cuts in half the 5 million gallons of water that could have been withdrawn from Lake Erie daily without a permit under House Bill 231.

That bill, which in July drew Mr. Kasich's only veto, was sponsored by state Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon) and supported by every Republican legislator and a total of three Democrats in the House and Senate.

As promised when he rejected Mr. Wachtmann's bill, Mr. Kasich is working with legislators to draft language that he said Thursday would better protect the lake. "To me, it's not a choice between good environment and economic development," the governor said to about 250 people at the Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association's annual meeting.

"I think they're consistent. ... Protecting that lake is important, and I'm going to do it. People can yell and scream. I had a guy yelling at me last night about it. That's life. At the end of the day I want the lake to be strong and I want you to be strong."

Meetings involving Kasich staffers, Mr. Wachtmann, and Rep. Dave Hall (R., Millersburg) were held to go over Mr. Kasich's proposed language.

Mr. Wachtmann, who accused Mr. Kasich of vetoing House Bill 231 because the governor was "tired of getting beat up and thought he'd screw the business community and look popular," said he was confident a deal could be reached but had concerns.

"Parts of the bill look like they may be OK. Other parts, I think, are going to allow way too much future regulation potential," he said.

Mr. Wachtmann said the governor proposes to lower the limits of what can be withdrawn from Lake Erie without a permit from 5 million gallons a day in the prior bill to 2.5 million gallons. Mr. Kasich's bill would lower withdrawals from rivers from 2 million gallons a day to 1 million and from 300,000 gallons from "high quality" streams to 100,000.

Mr. Wachtmann called the new limits "more of a political statement" than something that will have a great impact.

He said he is concerned with the governor's proposal to do away with the 90-day average for water usage, replacing it with a maximum usage. He said his bill granted an unlimited extension of a permit if, for example, a steel mill closes. The governor's proposal would limit how long a permit is extended. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols declined to discuss Mr. Wachtmann's comments.

The governor said his draft was subject to change and "it's better to get it done right than to hurry it up."

Mr. Hall said he expects legislation to be introduced in December or January.

Linda Woggon, executive vice president for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is supportive of House Bill 231. She said the chamber has consulted with Mr. Kasich's staff on a new bill, but there was "a lot of work left to be done."

House Bill 231 was opposed by former GOP Govs. Bob Taft and George V. Voinovich, GOP Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Columbus Dispatch's Joe Vardon contributed to this report.

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