COLUMBUS — Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced today the Ohio Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2, which establishes a statewide watershed planning and management program to coordinate and build upon the shared efforts of state and local partners to improve water quality throughout Ohio.
"Ensuring the long-term health and vitality of Lake Erie and Ohio's other lakes and waterways is a priority for the Ohio Senate," said Obhof, who co-sponsored the bill. "This bill represents the collective expertise and support of key leaders from the agriculture, conservation, environmental, and research communities and provides us with an important tool to address Ohio's water-related issues."
The bill establishes a program designed to fit the unique water quality needs of various regions around the state. Under the direction of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), each region will be assigned a watershed planning and management coordinator that will identify sources and areas of water quality impairment, which includes loading of phosphorus, dissolved reactive phosphorus and nitrogen.
The groups working on and supporting the bill include the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University, The Nature Conservancy and various agricultural commodity groups.
The program will help coordinate the many organizations who are working with local watershed professionals on management issues. The legislation allows for soil testing data and nutrient placement best practices to be collected in a centralized database under ODA and used to assist participants across the state.
Additionally, the bill establishes a pilot program administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Lake Erie Commission and the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission that assists farmers, agricultural retailers and soil and water conservation districts in reducing phosphorus in distressed watersheds.
Senate Bill 2 will now be sent to the Ohio House for further consideration.