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Ohioan may join water panel

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Sam Speck, former Ohio Department of Natural Resources director, is poised to become the U.S. commissioner of the International Joint Commission, pending approval of his appointment.

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President Bush intends to nominate former Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sam Speck to the U.S. section of the International Joint Commission, according to a White House statement dated Tuesday.

The IJC, which has offices in Washington, Ottawa, and Windsor, Ont., is a binational government agency that has helped the United States and Canada resolve disputes over boundary waters, such as the Great Lakes, since 1909.

Mr. Speck would be the third and final U.S. commissioner, joining acting U.S. Chairman Irene Brooks of Pennsylvania and Allen Olson of Minnesota.

Canada also has three.

A moderate Republican, Mr. Speck could be Ohio's first appointee in years. He served as Ohio DNR director for both of former Gov. Bob Taft's terms.

Mr. Taft served as the Council of Great Lakes Governors chairman from June, 2001, through December, 2005.

During that time, Mr. Speck served as his point man for the proposed Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.

If approved, it would tighten restrictions on water withdrawals while establishing a system for managing the lakes on a regional basis.

The appointment of Mr. Speck is subject to confirmation by a U.S. Senate panel, as is Mr. Bush's plan to make Ms. Brooks the IJC's new U.S. chairman. She would replace former U.S. Chairman Dennis Schornack, whom the White House fired July 10.

Mr. Speck is a former chairman of the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission, a taxpayer-funded body that promotes uniform policies among the eight Great Lakes states.

More recently, he has been on the public interest advisory group of the IJC's International Upper Great Lakes Study, which is trying to discern the causes for declining lake levels.

Being appointed to the IJC would be "an opportunity to learn," he said.

Mr. Speck also has served as chairman of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, the state's policy board for the lake, and as chairman of the gubernatorial council's water management working group.

Mr. Speck grew up on a Stark County farm. He was a legislator from New Concord, first a state representative from 1971 to 1976 and then a state senator from 1977 to 1983. He was the primary author of Ohio's Strip Mine Reclamation Act.

He received his master's and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.

Under President Ronald Reagan, he served as associate director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

His undergraduate degree is from Muskingum College. Mr. Speck went back to that campus in 1988 as president. He was hired away as the Ohio DNR director by Mr. Taft in early 1999.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.

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