Jul 20, 2018

Ohio Governor Moves to Designate Eight Lake Erie Watersheds in Distress

The designation, if approved, could mean tighter nutrient management practices for Ohio farmers to reduce storm water runoff damage

On July 11, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order to designate eight Ohio watersheds in distress, which would allow the Ohio Department of Agriculture to set limits for nutrient management practices that would potentially impact 7,000 farms across 2 million acres, as reported by The Cleveland.  However, the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission (SWCC) decided to refer the distressed watershed designation decision to a subcommittee for further study. The executive order targets eight watershed in the western basin of Lake Erie based off of high nutrient levels, particularly phosphorous.

The designation will be delayed until SWCC completes their study. If designated watersheds in distress, farmers within the watershed would be subject to limits on use, storage, handling and control of nutrients and be required to develop management plants for agricultural land. Tcomhe executive order coincides with a study by the Kasich administration which found Lake Erie water quality does not meet the state’s commitment of reducing phosphorus entering the western basin by 40% by 2025. 

Nutrient management restrictions on farmers would be designed to improve storm water runoff quality and reduce phosphorus, a common storm water pollutant attributed to manure used on  farms. The Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio AgriBusiness Assn., and Ohio Pork Council have called for further review before the designation. The organizations say their farmers support nutrient management plans, but that the designation needs more review. 

“We love the farmers and they’re great people,” Gov. Kasich said. “And I believe that most of them do not want to engage in anything that’s going to be destructive to the environment.”