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New $10M initiative to support Lake Erie cleanup

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Lake Erie is known for its cleanliness problems. Lake Erie is known for its cleanliness problems.
Algae is a major issue, often closing beaches in the summer. (Source: Michael Stinson) Algae is a major issue, often closing beaches in the summer. (Source: Michael Stinson)
Algae has become a serious threat to the region's drinking water. Algae has become a serious threat to the region's drinking water.
COLUMBUS, OH (Toledo News Now) -

On Tuesday, State Senator Randy Gardner, who represents Ottawa and Erie counties, announced a new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative has been included in the state's new Capital Appropriations Budget introduced in the House of Representatives.

The initiative will provide $10 million over the next two years in funding to support efforts to reduce open lake dumping in Lake Erie, along with implementing other clean lake strategies. Administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the fund will be used primarily to find alternative uses for dredge materials versus current and prospective practices, which may be considered less environmentally friendly. Options could include reusing material on land or creating wetlands.

ODNR Director Jim Zehringer praised the initiative as another in a series of efforts to make progress on cleaning up Lake Erie, particularly the toxic algae problem.

"Protecting Lake Erie remains a top priority for Governor Kasich's administration," said Zehringer. "Thanks to the partnership and collaborative efforts of Senate President Keith Faber and Senator Randy Gardner through the Healthy Lake Erie Initiative, we will continue practices to address nutrient issues in the Lake Erie watershed. We recognize more needs to be done, and with the help of the governor's capital bill, we can work toward our shared goal of improving water quality in the western Lake Erie basin."

Gardner said the new capital funds will build on other efforts to find answers to Lake Erie environmental challenges.

"I am thankful that Senator Faber and Governor Kasich agree that more needs to be done to attack problems affecting Lake Erie," Gardner said. "The lake is one of Ohio's great natural assets with tremendous impact on jobs and quality of life. We have an obligation to continue the fight."

State leaders say thousands of small businesses rely on a healthy lake and if we don't start taking better care of it in our region, outsiders will.

"If we don't do a better job as a state taking care of Lake Erie, the federal government may come in with regulations imposing a lot of things that would not be helpful to our state. This is something that we must do together as much as we can. This Healthy Lake Initiative is another step in that direction," explained Gardner.

While Gardner said most of the efforts to date have focused on the western Lake Erie basin, recent controversies in Cuyahoga County regarding dredging disposal issues indicate attention is needed all along Ohio's northern coast.

Gardner praised the involvement of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the Charter Boat Association, and the Lake Erie Improvement Association, among many organizations, in addition to ODNR and Ohio EPA officials, for providing ideas to help mitigate the need for open lake dumping of dredge materials. 

House and Senate committee hearings are expected in the Ohio House and Senate over the next couple of weeks. Gardner believes the multimillion dollar proposal will move through the state House and Senate quickly. He expects a decision within the next two weeks.

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