Full speed on Lake Erie reforms


Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor caught four fish in Lake Erie on a recent trip out on the water. She must have been making up for lost time.

Ms. Taylor’s appearance this year came after neither she nor Gov. John Kasich made it to the Governor’s Fish Ohio Day on Lake Erie for the last four years.

The lieutenant governor said she wanted to make the next generation aware of the lake’s value.

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It will be the next generation that has to live with the damage this generation has done to the lake. No small part of that is thanks to years of neglect from the Kasich administration.

After years of insisting that voluntary measures were all that were necessary to reduce the pollution pouring into Lake Erie and fueling toxic algal blooms there, Mr. Kasich relented just days ahead of a judge’s ruling on a lawsuit in the matter and declared Lake Erie impaired under the terms of the Clean Water Act.

Activists had been clamoring for years — indeed going so far as to sue in federal court to force the issue — for such a designation because it should lead to serious, science-backed strategies to measure the pollution, identify its sources, and set strict limits backed by law.

Weeks after acquiescing to calls for the impairment designation, Mr. Kasich’s Ohio EPA released a report admitting that its own science had shown voluntary measures had had zero measurable effect on reducing lake pollution.

So now the Kasich administration is limping into its lame duck stage, with Ms. Taylor showing up in Port Clinton to tout the economic impact of tourism and sport fishing in Ohio.

The tourism-related businesses contributed more than $15 billion in economic impact last year in just the eight lake-bordering counties of Ohio alone. And tourism is responsible for generating nearly $2 billion in taxes and providing 128,000 jobs in those eight counties.

If anyone needed reasons to care about showing some urgency in addressing Lake Erie’s woes, you’d think they could be found in those numbers. But Ms. Taylor was not interested in considering what damage years of foot-dragging might have caused to the fight to save Lake Erie.

“Don’t be the bomb thrower, be a part of the discussion that will actually help us make progress and continue to make progress on protecting this great lake,” she said.

The lieutenant governor went on to say that she was committing herself personally to doing whatever she could to help the lake clean-up effort. Committing herself, indeed.

Saving Lake Erie is going to take a lot more commitment than a day of fishing photo opps. Ohio needs a pollution inventory to track the sources of phosphorus running downriver to the lake. It needs a Total Daily Maximum Load limit on that pollution. And it needs serious enforcement to make sure Ohio sticks to the limit.

Ohio needs leaders with the political will to stand up to the state’s powerful agricultural lobby, which continues to call for “going slowly” and putting faith in the voluntary measures that have proven ineffective.

Under Mary Taylor and John Kasich Ohio went slowly with Lake Erie. It was a disaster.