Lake Erie access rule may rock the boat


A ruling that could hamper the public s access to Lake Erie beaches came out last week while ironically, we all were slogging through our cold, wintry mix of freezing rain and snow.

No doubt it would have received more attention if it had been issued in July.

Critics fear the Lake County Common Pleas Court decision will further erode the Great Lakes region s shoreline access.

It defines the public-private boundary line as the ever-shifting water s edge, not the high water mark.

One of America s top shoreline experts, Duke University s Orrin Pilkey, told me last year he s stunned by the Great Lakes region s lack of beach access.

Same goes for the nation s oldest think tank, the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

A $200,000 study Brookings released in 2006, funded by major businesses, universities, and philanthropic groups, said the region will re-emerge as an economic powerhouse only if it rallies around the Great Lakes. It suggested becoming more appealing to outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and those seeking health lifestyles.

I believe in private property rights. I respect some zoning laws, disdain others, and believe in the freedom to do as I please with the turf I own, within reason and without excessive government intrusion.

But the formula s simple: If you can see the water and touch the water, you re more likely to protect the water.

Expect an appeal.

A two-fer: Toledo is not all that progressive on the environment, regardless what Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said in London to help the city finish third in the recent International Awards for Liveable Communities competition.

Let s just say that mayors, um, tend to embellish things.

Toledo is what it is a struggling Rust Belt city with charm and ambiance. It has beautiful parks.

But it also has a blighted downtown, a largely untapped waterfront, a horrible rate of recycling, polluted waterways, air quality straddling the line between good and bad, and no green roofs that I know about other than those with green shingles or green paint.

So give it credit for the $26 million commitment it announced last week to link its Hoffman Road landfill and its Bay View wastewater treatment plant together via a cogeneration power facility.

Just a few years ago, the City of Toledo ended a 12-year feud in federal court over its decades-old sewage bypasses that allow raw waste into area streams after heavy rain.

The city agreed to finally eliminate such releases by completing $450 million of improvements by 2015.

Imagine if Toledo, likewise, refused to capture the methane gas generated by its landfill.

The city could have continued to flare it off or worse challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take it to court if it had ignored the problem years ago and had just kept venting all the methane into the atmosphere.

Now, it is fewer than 18 months from generating electricity, removing the landfill as a major contributor of gases that contribute to the gradual warming of the Earth s climate. And it will avoid more litigious head-butting with the federal EPA.

This wasn t done strictly for altruistic reasons, of course.

Toledo expects to save $2 million a year on electricity bills for its sewage plant while also helping the environment as well as becoming just a little more energy independent and generating some surplus power).

It s one project Toledo deserves to tout no matter what competition its mayor finds himself in.