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Some say Kasich’s speech lacks depth on Lake Erie

Sheehy: Much more needs to be done

COLUMBUS — As he often does, Gov. John Kasich spoke during his State of the State address about the role Lake Erie played in developing his initial impression of Ohio as the “promised land” when visiting as a child from the Pittsburgh area.

And while his speech Tuesday at the Sandusky State Theatre, within view of Sandusky Bay, was preceded by the announcement of a $1 million wetlands restoration grant, his annual assessment of the state’s health was light on the health of Lake Erie.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his State of the State address at the Sandusky State Theatre on Tuesday.

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“About $2.5 billion have been invested in Lake Erie since the start of the administration,” he said near the top of his 70-minute speech. “Yes, we want to make it cleaner, and we aim to keep it clean. And I hope those that come after me will realize this is the great, great jewel of the state of Ohio, and that’s the great Lake Erie.”

Earlier, state officials met at Cedar Point to discuss efforts to reduce the runoff of chemical fertilizers and manure that feeds the harmful algal blooms like those that endangered Toledo’s drinking water supply in August, 2014.

But Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) said later those efforts have been “very preliminary.”

“Today, as we speak, enormous quantities of animal waste are deposited on farmlands in the western basin of Lake Erie, on lands that are already saturated with manure,” he said. “It would be unconscionable for any of us to think about taking human waste and depositing them in those kinds of situations without first treating them …,” he said. “Much more needs to be done.”

State Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) noted that the governor touched on the value of Lake Erie and the wetlands grant high up in his speech. But while the state has committed another $1 million to help restore Sandusky Bay wetlands that filter pollutants, President Trump’s proposed major cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would wipe out some $300 million in federal funding for a key program to protect the quality of Great Lakes’ water.

“This is one area that’s been refreshingly bipartisan …,” Mr. Gardner said. “…Twenty-one percent of the fresh water in the world in the Great Lakes deserves our attention.

“If there are better ways or more effective ways to tackle these problems, then let’s have that discussion,” he said. “But otherwise most of us believe that those kinds of cuts are indefensible and not helpful to our economy or our environment.”

Mr. Kasich’s last two-year budget proposal, pending with the General assembly, has little wiggle room. Tax collections continue to lag administration projections. With three months left in this fiscal year, the state is $614.6 million, or 3.7 percent, behind projections, according to monthly numbers released Wednesday.

Since Toledo’s water emergency, the state has enacted restrictions on the spreading of manure and other fertilizers when the ground is frozen or saturated and has required those who apply them to land to get state certification. It also has worked to develop uses for sediment dredged from ports and river mouths other than dumping it into Lake Erie.

Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund President Heather Taylor-Miesle credited Mr. Kasich’s efforts.  Still, bolder action is needed.

“I call on Governor Kasich to urge state lawmakers to get serious about curbing agricultural runoff pollution,” she said.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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