COLUMBUS - After three years of rough seas, a landmark agreement binding eight states in their protection of Great Lakes waters sailed through the Ohio Senate and House yesterday on its way to Gov. Ted Strickland's signature.
"This has been a long road, but well worth the effort," said Mike Eckhardt, policy director of the Ohio League of Conservation. "Ohio has finally joined with the other Great Lakes States and is committed to protecting Lake Erie."
Ohio is the seventh state whose legislatures have voted to ratify the landmark agreement designed, in cooperation with the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, to dramatically reduce the chances that the lakes' water could be diverted in the future to thirstier regions of the nation or globe.
"If people want our water, they are more than welcome to bring their jobs and families here to Ohio. Only then will we be happy to share our water," said Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills).
He noted that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently declared a drought in California for the first time in 17 years.
The dam that had been holding back the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in the Ohio Senate finally broke when House Democrats agreed to a compromise constitutional amendment protecting landowners' right to the "reasonable use" of water on or running under their property. That question will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Once the House took that action, the Senate swiftly and unanimously passed the compact.
"It's very important for Ohio that we join with our fellow states and provinces of Canada to protect these vital resources, and I certainly will celebrate the ability to sign the compact," Mr. Strickland said.
Although he voted for the compact, Sen. Keith Fabor (R., Celina) raised concerns that it could be used to prevent cities like Celina from piping water from an underground aquifer within the watershed from one part of the city to another.
"I'm still curious how well water taken from the aquifer on the north side of Celina and [that] is treated and used for economic development is going to somehow adversely affect the level of Lake Erie or any of the Great Lakes one iota," he said.
The compact will take effect regardless of what voters decide on the amendment on Nov. 4.