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Open letter from State Representative Chris Redfern

It has been a month since half a-million Ohioans were forced to go without water, and 300 times as long since the state got serious about looking at and researching the cause—harmful algal blooms; 25 years, at least.

And now, our state and the health of its greatest natural resource, Lake Erie, are at the crossroads.

We can continue down the path of haphazard, piecemeal policies that brought us to this point, or we can put in place comprehensive, long-term solutions that address more than just the symptoms of harmful algal blooms.

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Redfern co-sponsors and votes for SB 150

State Rep. Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island) voted in favor of Senate Bill 150 on the House floor. The bill requires the certification of individuals who apply agricultural fertilizer, incentivizes the development of nutrient management plans for residual farm products, including soil sediment, and it directs dollars to the Healthy Lake Erie Fund.

“This bill is a step in the right direction to address the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and its tributaries,” said Rep. Redfern. “This issue cannot be settled through one bill, but it is encouraging to see the agricultural community work with the legislature to make meaningful progress.”

Rep. Redfern is a co-sponsor of the SB 150, which passed the House unanimously with support from environmental groups and farmers.

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Waterworks Park and agriculture run off big topics at Redfern town hall meeting

Redfern speaking at a previous town hall meeting.

On March 17 at 10 a.m. Ohio State Representative Chris Redfern held a bi-monthly town meeting at the Ida Rupp Public Library. Two Port Clinton city council members, a Portage Township trustee, and a school superintendent and treasurer were just a few people in attendance at the open forum meeting.

The first topic for discussion, a widely known hot topic for Port Clinton residents, was Waterworks Park and the development of that area. Redfern said that he and Senator Randy Gardner have had discussions about the project and they agree that something needs to be done to further the future of Port Clinton just as surrounding places such as Huron and Sandusky have done.

“We are here to help you with what you need,” said Redfern. “There are programs out there to help fund these projects. We are here to back you.”

Redfern did heed a warning about the project, though.

“If we apply, we ought not to walk it back,” said Redfern. “We might not get a third of forth chance at this.” He continued, “Personal feelings aside, you went before and got this money and then didn’t use it. If you go back again, you better have your act together.”

Another hot topic and growing concern was discussed; agricultural runoff. Redfern said that next week the house is voting on legislation that would strengthen the Department of Agriculture and farmers’ relationship towards education. Anyone who purchases fertilizer in bulk will have to go through an education program.

“This will not change overnight,” said Redfern. “The Lake Erie watershed is thousands of square miles, it will take time. There are 300 different types of soil in Ohio. Each ditch, every tributary needs to be treated with the upmost importance. Lake Erie doesn’t just begin down the river in Oak Harbor, it starts at the watershed: Upper Sandusky, Canton, etc. Everything north from the watershed flows into the lake.”

The controversial wind turbines along the lake shore were another topic on the table. A resident brought up that the guidelines for citing of wind turbines are voluntary. She wanted to know what action could be taken to make these guidelines universal across the board so this kind of situation can’t happen. 

“The project has been halted,” said Redfern, “because not only the state government but, more importantly, the federal government spoke up saying that the turbines could hurt protected species.”

There was also discussion about the projected Canadian nuclear waste site along the shores of the Great Lakes. The resident who brought up the topic also pointed out that a crack was found in the concrete of the reactor. She said that the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) was not holding a public meeting about the subject and she just wanted to keep the Great Lakes free of nuclear waste.

“I can see no reason why FirstEnergy or anyone wouldn’t want to have a public meeting on the subject,” said Redfern.

The resident reminded those in attendance that the NRC takes calls from citizens suggesting they have a public meeting.

The last subject discussed at the meeting was Common Core in schools. Common Core is the guidelines every school has to follow to ensure students are all reaching the curriculum suggested for their grade level.

The discussion led to the conclusion that maybe the one test standard isn’t the best way to judge a student or a school’s accomplishments.

“We should be able to question authority,” said Redfern. “I am worried about support for teachers… and not financial support.”

Other topics briefly discussed were state taxes, Ohio’s Sunshine Law, widening State Route 2 between Camp Perry and Toledo and the condition of the viaducts under the railroad tracks in town.

Chris Redfern holds town meetings throughout his districts, Erie and Ottawa Counties, so he can listen to constituents’’ ideas, questions and concerns.

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