FREMONT — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will stock a Fremont reservoir with 100,000 small yellow perch following a city council decision to allow gasoline-powered boats on the body of water.
Council voted 5-2 on Thursday to approve use of boats with gas motors not exceeding 10 horsepower on a 100-acre reservoir off Sandusky County Road 41.
The Ohio DNR pushed the city to allow gas motors, despite some city officials’ water quality concerns.
“The initial objective of the reservoir was to provide a clean source of drinking water. I don’t feel that it’s right to jeopardize that in any manner,” said Councilman Dallas Leake, who with Councilman Julie Kreilick opposed permitting gas boats.
Scott Zody, chief of the Ohio DNR’s Division of Wildlife, hopes the reservoir will be open to small gas and electric boats operating at no-wake speed in the upcoming days or weeks. He expects the reservoir will be stocked by September or October with 3 to 4-inch perch as the agency tries to build “a high quality fishery.”
The Ohio DNR withheld filling the reservoir with fish as the city discussed boat rules.
The state agency contended that authorization of gasoline-powered motors was a condition of a $5 million grant it awarded the city to build the reservoir.
The reservoir’s cost soared from an estimated $18 million to more than $40 million amid lawsuits and delays cause by design and construction issues.
The city and the Ohio DNR agreed to the grant in 2008.
Ohio DNR officials warned Fremont it could seek to have money returned if the city didn’t allow gas-powered boats.
Mr. Leake said outside attorneys told council members repayment wasn’t a legitimate threat.
Fremont Law Director Jim Melle said ultimately it could have been up to a court to decide.
Councilman Tom Knisely supported gas boats because he believes the city made a commitment to allow such vessels on the reservoir when it accepted the grant.
“It’s going to create some recreation; it’s going to bring people into Fremont,” he said.
Mayor Jim Ellis, who did not return calls for comment Friday, had recommended prohibiting gas motors, with the exception of emergency, maintenance, and Ohio DNR watercraft.
He told Mr. Zody in a June letter that water quality is “the paramount interest,” and that it’s important for citizens and businesses to “always have confidence that their water is safe, clean, and not jeopardized by any polluting event.”
Mr. Zody said the amount of gasoline that would have to be spilled “to rise to a level of risk” is so large it makes the threat minuscule.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, has issued publications that state that a mere gallon of oil is enough to pollute a million gallons of water.
Other U.S. EPA literature states that the amount of dirty oil collected from an oil change — typically five gallons or less — can contaminate a million gallons of water.
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Dina Pierce said other Ohio communities allow gas-powered boats, sometimes with horsepower limits, on reservoirs that also provide drinking water. She said such boat rules are a local decision, with no federal or state prohibitions.
The Ohio EPA, though, has published its own literature claiming that a million gallons of water can be contaminated by the amount of oil collected from a typical oil change. Several other states have also issued publications that state a million gallons of water can be contaminated by as little as a gallon of oil.
Contact Vanessa McCray at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.