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Small Yet Vital Streams Could Lose Protections in Ohio

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021   

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A vital part of watersheds in Ohio would lose environmental protection under a proposed bill.

A committee hearing will be held today on House Bill 175. It changes the definition of ephemeral streams, making the waterways no longer subject to Clean Water Act regulations in Ohio.

Emily Obringer, Water Conservation Coordinator for the Sierra Club Ohio chapter, explained ephemeral streams have flowing water only during and after precipitation, and are located above the water table.

The state's Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are roughly 36 thousand miles of ephemeral streams in Ohio, but Obringer said other estimates are closer to 45,000 miles.

"Basically, deregulation would affect every watershed in Ohio," Obringer asserted.

Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, argued it's nonsensical to remove protections for ephemeral streams while the state spends millions of dollars on the H2Ohio water-quality initiative.

"Water is life," Brent stated. "Ohio is so fortunate that we have Lake Erie right here. And chipping away at our investment into making sure that our water is taken seriously is a huge threat on our quality of life."

The bill's supporters contended it would remove expensive barriers to economic development, and clarify what types of water features can be regulated.

Obringer added under House Bill 175, the various industries that pollute ephemeral streams would no longer be financially responsible for the cleanup.

"Ohio ratepayers and municipalities would foot the bill of maintaining safe drinking-water standards and stream mitigation," Obringer reported.

Brent argued Ohio should avoid loosening any regulations related to water protection, after the Trump administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule reduced the waterways covered under the federal Clean Water Act.

"Now, when we look at what our state is doing and what multiple states are doing, that's basically opening us up to tell the world that you can do anything with the water no matter where you're at, and that Ohio's going to be OK with it," Brent remarked.

The House Agriculture and Conservation Committee hearing begins at 9:00 a.m.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Urban Planning/Transportation, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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