COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 2 Thursday (June 13), sponsored by Senators Bob Peterson, R-Washington Court House, and Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, 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.

"Lake Erie is a key vital resource, not only for Northeast Ohio, but the entire state," said Sen. Dolan in a written statement. "This Senate priority legislation is needed to address Ohio's water related issues ranging from outdated sewer systems, clean drinking water and algae blooms in the Lake."

The bill establishes a program that is designed to fit the unique water quality needs throughout the state. Under the direction of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, 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 phosphorous, dissolved reactive phosphorous and nitrogen.

"This legislation is a result of stakeholders across the state working together, from the environmental groups to the agricultural commodity organizations, the goal was the same, protecting the Lake and improving water quality," Sen. Dolan said.

The groups 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 phosphorous in distressed watersheds.

SB 2 will now be sent to the Ohio House for further consideration. 

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