By Joan Sturtevant and Edith Chase, Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project
The Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project (OCRMP) was established in 1982 to promote shoreline conservation and state participation in the federal coastal program. OCRMP continues to promote the implementation of Ohio’s coastal management program, meet with the Ohio Coastal Resources Advisory Council, serve as advisor to the Lake Erie Commission, research current issues, network with like-minded groups, and publish four newsletters each year to keep Ohio citizens informed of problems and successes.
OCRMP works with other nonprofit partners to support Great Lakes efforts such as the Great Lakes Compact. The Compact focuses on diversions of water and large consumptive uses in the Great Lakes region. Ohio Governor Taft originally led the effort to develop the Great Lakes Compact, which was signed in December 2005 by the Council of Great Lakes Governors. The Ohio House of Representatives then approved the Compact legislation in 2006, 87-5, and again in 2008, 90-3, however it is once again stalled in the Senate. The majority of the Senate feels that the Compact might diminish private water and property rights even though the Compact clearly protects both. On May 7, 2008, State Senator Tim Grendell introduced a Constitutional Amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 8, to reaffirm Ohioans private water and property rights. OCRMP and other nonprofits were concerned about some of the language in the amendment and quite frankly felt that the amendment was not needed. Again, the Great Lakes Compact clearly and expressly protects both private water and property rights. The political reality though was that the majority of the Senators felt that without the amendment the Compact would leave private water and property rights at risk. In order to feel comfortable with the Great Lakes Compact the Senate made their vote on the Great Lakes Compact contingent on the passage of the constitutional amendment out of the Ohio House of Representatives so that the Constitutional Amendment could be placed before voters in November.
On May 21, 2008, the Compact legislation seemed to have a breakthrough. Jack Shaner, with the Ohio Environmental Council, met with Senator Grendell and pointed out that some provisions would prevent Ohio EPA from protecting wetlands and other critical natural resources. Shaner agreed with Senator Grendell on the purpose of codifying water rights language. With OEC’s legal advisor, the language was modified and a substitute bill was prepared for a Constitutional Amendment to be on the November ballot. The proposed Constitutional Amendment was then approved by the Senate Committee and by the Ohio Senate, 33-0, and was voted down by the Ohio House on May 29th. There is still time for the Ohio House to reconsider the constitutional amendment. They will be reconvening on June 10th and 11th at which time they could pass the Constitutional Amendment clearing the way for the passage of the Great Lakes Compact, Ohio House Bill 416, out of the Senate.
At this time, shoreline property interests are working hard to take over Public Trust lands and weaken Ohio’s coastal program. Shoreline property interests had filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 2004, claiming a taking of their property. Interveners included the Ohio Environmental Council and the National Wildlife Federation. The Lake County judge issued his decision in December 2007, holding that the shoreline owners’ boundary went to the water’s edge. That decision has now been appealed by the Ohio Environmental Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Ohio Attorney General. As Ohio struggles to approve the Great Lakes Compact on diversions and large consumptive uses of water resources in the Great Lakes Basin, the Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project (OCRMP) is working to upgrade our website and outreach. The project funded by Freshwater Future will help to improve OCRMP’s ability to keep citizens informed about key Lake Erie issues, and timely actions needed. It will encourage those who read the Newsletter and Web site to visit the areas of concern with increased knowledge of cause/effect regarding aquatic habitats. This will help them understand why it is important to be aware of concerns and to become involved in watching the shore, thus becoming advocates for Lake Erie. Citizens may then be able to more readily relate their life styles and choices with the lake shore concerns. The project will also help build OCRMP’s capacity through enhanced electronic communication and thus increased membership, attracting more young people and new people who communicate mainly using this kind of media. An improved, more user-friendly website should increase the number of informed citizens who take timely actions to protect coastal resources, including wetlands, aquatic habitat, and pollution prevention.
For more information contact:
Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project
5731 Caranor, Kent, OH 44240
Edith Chase: (330) 673-1193
Joan Sturtevant (330) 626-3953