The Ohio Senate Wednesday approved an amendment sponsored by Senator Randy Gardner that strives to end open lake dumping of dredged materials in Lake Erie.
The Gardner amendment reappropriates approximately $1.6 million of existing state funds toward conservation practices in the counties of the Western Lake Erie Basin and specifically provides for transferring money to the Healthy Lake Erie Fund to address open lake dumping.
“Lake Erie is one of Ohio’s most important natural assets,” Gardner said in sponsoring the amendment. “Open lake dumping of dredge materials is one of several factors we believe contributing to algae problems in Lake Erie. We must be more aggressive in our efforts to clean up the lake.”
Gardner’s amendment received the support of agriculture groups, environmental organizations and charter boat captains who testified in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. Gardner worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Council and received support from the Ohio Farm Bureau for his amendment.
“We must do all we can to build bipartisan coalitions in support of Lake Erie,” Gardner said. “This effort against Lake Erie dumping is another important step.”
The Ohio Environmental Council agrees.
"Senator Gardner's amendment offers a practical bridge between the need to dredge the Toledo harbor with the need to protect Lake Erie from harmful dredge material," said Kristy Meyer, managing director of agricultural, health & clean water programs with the Ohio Environmental Council. "All lawmakers should support it."
Gardner said it was important to note that the challenges in supporting a healthier Lake Erie became even greater this year with the reported second-worst algal bloom season on record.
“I appreciate Senator Gardner sponsoring this amendment and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Hite and the committee for supporting it,” ODNR Director Jim Zehringer said. “This will be an important first step in addressing a possible alternative to the open lake disposal of dredge material and the associated nutrients that can impact Lake Erie.”
Gardner’s amendment is included in legislation scheduled for a final committee and Senate floor vote next week. The bill and amendment will then be considered by the House of Representatives in December.