Environment

Local candidates face questions at forum

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the nation was preparing for the second presidential debate Sunday evening, Wood County residents filled up seats in a Bowling Green church to listen to local candidates. Though the forum was much less contentious than the presidential debate, there were a few accusations lodged at the local level. The League of Women Voters from Bowling Green and Perrysburg hosted the candidate forum for nine county, state and national races. Questions for the forum were accepted from the audience on note cards ahead of the event. But because there were 17 candidates sharing the stage, only two questions were posed to each. The candidates were all given a couple minutes to sum up at the end. The biggest sparks flew when the candidates for the Ohio House – Republican Theresa Gavarone and Democrat Kelly Wicks – were called to the microphones. The first question asked each to identify their top two priorities. But in response to multiple flyers mailed to local residents and a television commercial accusing Wicks of not paying his taxes, Wicks took the opportunity to set the record straight. “I’m Kelly Wicks and I pay my taxes,” he said.  Several years ago, he missed the deadline for a property tax payment, but paid it as soon as he realized the error, Wicks said. He questioned why his opponent and the state Republican party were spending so much on untruths. “Why is she willing to go so ugly, so early?” Wicks said. “What are you hiding?” Gavarone said she did not review the ads against her opponent. “They were produced out of Columbus and mailed out of Columbus.” She also stated her top priorities would be the economy and education. “It’s important to keep Wood County working,” Gavarone said, suggesting the need to reduce taxes and regulations on businesses. Schools need to be funded adequately and the concerns of educators need to be heard, she…


Wood Soil & Water Conservation District meets

(As submitted by the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District) The Wood SWCD held its 67th Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet and the 4th annual Conservation ATV Tour on Saturday, September 10th at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), near Hoytville. The day began at 9:00 a.m. with a conservation ATV tour, sponsored by Mid-Wood, in southern Wood County. Over 50 ATV riders were escorted by the Wood County Sheriff Auxiliary as they traveled the byways visiting the lagoon in Custar managed by the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, learning how the data collected at the Edge of Field (EOF) monitoring stations is helping farmers manage applied nutrients, touring Graminex pollen collection facility, and stopping by the fields of an organic grain farmer. The Wood SWCD board of supervisors election was held at OARDC 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. with Dale Limes, Dennis Ferrell, and Lee Sundermeier as candidates. Incumbents, Dennis and Lee, were elected to serve three year terms beginning January 1, 2017. Ron Snyder, National Association of Soil and Water Conservation District’s Soil Health Champion and Wood SWCD supervisor, presented “Soil Your Undies.” In addition to the election during the lunch program, awards were presented for Farm Beautification to Dan and Jan Wilson, of Rudolph; Backyard Conservationist to Doug and Cathy Irick; and Friend of the District to the Wood County Sheriff. The John Hirzel Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Barndt, Bowling Green. Amanda is a junior at Northwest State Community College. In 1975, the late Harold and Iva Lou Bordner established the Farm Beautification Award. The award was designed to encourage farmers’ pride in their farmsteads and is continued through the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District. Each year nominations are accepted and the winning farm is chosen after considering such things as the condition of the buildings, care and upkeep of the garden and lawn, landscaping, windbreaks, absence of unnecessary equipment, and the overall appearance. The 2016 Farm…


Failing septic systems in county estimated at 6,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As many as 6,000 failing septic systems in Wood County are sending sewage into public waterways. That estimate is based on the fact that there are approximately 12,000 septic systems operating in the county, with the average life expectancy of the systems at 30 years, according to Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey and Environmental Division Director Lana Glore. Because aging and failing septic systems are a problem statewide, the Ohio Department of Health has suggested that local health departments examine every system. “They want all septic systems to be looked at,” Glore told the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday during a meeting on septic systems in the county. Though admirable, the plan is quite “grandiose,” Batey said, explaining that the Wood County Health Division can’t meet that goal unless they go on a hiring spree. “The state’s expectation that we check every system in the next five years – that’s just not feasible,” he said. The Wood County Health Division already has a septic system operation and maintenance plan, but it is on a much smaller level, Glore said. Inspections of systems are complaint-driven or prompted by real estate sales. The health division works with the county building inspection office on preventing problems by determining the best locations for septic systems and making sure space is left for replacement systems. The health division also partners with the county engineer’s office to help map out systems using GIS. “We’re working toward better use of technology,” Batey said. The health division also works with landowners to find the most reasonable solutions. “Our idea is always to work with the owners and give them the best options,” Glore said. “Our first goal is always working with homeowners and property owners.” While sanitary sewers are being extended to more rural areas of the county, there are still many areas years away from that option. Health district officials realize there are many…


BG residents and bicyclists clash over plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a head-on collision Monday evening between city residents who want to safely bicycle in town, and city residents who want to hang on to their front yards and street parking. John Zanfardino, of City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee, set the scene by explaining the long-awaited goal of creating bike routes in the city. “Everywhere I visit has bike lanes,” he said. “It seems to me a progressive concept we should consider.” The consultants working with Bowling Green on a community action plan asked about bike lanes during their initial visit to the city, according to council member Daniel Gordon. “The very first thing they noticed when they came to Bowling Green was a lack of bike lanes,” he said. “This is a national movement,” said council member Sandy Rowland. But plans to modify the first two streets for bikes met roadblocks Monday evening from neighbors who felt their concerns were being ignored. When City Engineer Jason Sisco presented the plan to widen sidewalks on the east side of Fairview to accommodate bikes, the neighbors asked why the bike lane wasn’t being placed on the west side along the golf course owned by the city. “Yeah,” several in the audience said loudly. Sisco said city officials had been worried about putting bicyclists too close to stray golf balls, but he added “there’s nothing that says it couldn’t be on the west side.” When given a chance to take the podium, several Fairview Avenue residents defended their front yards, and several Conneaut Avenue residents stood up for their street parking. “If you put a path in my yard on Fairview, you will be able to knock on my side door,” Faith Olson said. “That’s not fair to me as a long-time resident of Bowling Green.” Olson said she understood the frustration of bicyclists waiting from some accommodations in the city. “I understand you’re tired of talking,…


Council doesn’t want to be kept in dark on solar project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials don’t want to darken the bright future of massive solar field being built on city property, but Council members demanded answers Monday evening to some troubling questions on the project. Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Ohio workers used on the site and the fact that they are not being paid prevailing wages. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require the prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do have a prevailing wage requirement.” But in this case, the city has no control over the wages paid on the project. But Aspacher was not satisfied. “The fact of the matter is it’s being built on Bowling Green property. So I think it’s a Bowling Green project.” The other issue is the workforce on the project. NextEra was granted a tax abatement by the county commissioners on the project on the condition that…


BG solar project faces scrutiny over hiring practices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A shadow of doubt has been cast over the hiring practices at the massive solar field being built northeast of Bowling Green. Claims have been made that the project is not adhering to the requirement that 80 percent of those employed at the site be Ohio residents. That percentage was a primary factor in the Wood County Commissioners approving a tax abatement for the project. And concerns have been expressed by city officials that there was an expectation that the project would pay prevailing wages. Officials from the electric subcontractor at the site, Blattner Energy, and the contractor for the project, NextEra Energy, both strongly defended their compliance with the 80 percent rule. However, they also clarified that the project has no requirement to pay prevailing wages. The giant solar project has been welcomed as good for the environment and good for the area’s reputation since it will be the largest solar field in Ohio. The project is located on 165 acres owned by the City of Bowling Green at the southeast corner of Carter and Newton roads. The solar array will consist of 85,680 panels that will track the sun from east to west everyday for maximum power generation. But from the beginning, the solar project stirred up a bit of controversy. The Wood County Commissioners initially refused to grant the requested 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. The tax abatement request for the solar field was unlike those that normally come before the commissioners. First, the amount is massive, giving a tax break of $7.3 million over just the first 15 years. Second, the abatement duration is 30 years, compared to the customary 10 to 15 years. Third, there is no ongoing employment, which is the basis for most tax breaks. Construction of the solar field will employ about 85 people from July 18 to Dec. 31. And…


BG parks and rec sets course for next five years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The five-year master plan for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation is not “sexy.” But what it lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in substance. Much of the plan focuses on maintaining the current parks – paving parking lots and fixing roofs. Nothing too flashy. Woody Woodward, executive director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, complimented the park and rec board Tuesday evening for its new plan. “It matters. It helps set a course for you for the next five years,” Woodward said. He disagreed with the description that the plan lacked pizzazz. In fact, the plan has a quality that several communities neglect. “This plan gives you some time to breathe,” and take care of what the city already has, he said. “We spend so much time thinking what the next thing is, that we forget to take care of what the last thing was.” “It ensures that this community has the facilities necessary to make lives better,” Woodward said. The master plan was completed after a series of public forums was held earlier this year to collect community input on the parks. The forums were led by Shannon Orr, political science professor at Bowling Green State University. Orr said she has led forums many times in the past, but encountered something unusual at the park and rec meetings. “I’ve never run a forum where people were so enthusiastic and positive,” she said. The participants praised the friendliness of the park staff, variety of programs, reasonable prices, and clean facilities. “I hope you appreciate how unusual that is,” Orr said. “What really came out of these forums is how the community feels about parks and rec.”   The forums covered youth programs, nature parks, garden parks, active parks, fitness and aquatics. Three items repeatedly asked for by residents were an indoor pool, a walkway to the community center, and more activities for ages…


BG Tree Commission gets to root of tree issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Tree Commission gathered for a meeting last week under a tree dedicated to a former member, Walt Ferrell. The tree, a three-flowered maple, was planted in the city’s arboretum located to the west of the city’s fire station on Pearl Street. The plaque at the base of the tree honors Ferrell, a 10-year member of the city tree commission, who graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. “He was a good man,” said Bob Manley, a member of the tree commission. As they stood under the young tree, the commission continued its monthly meeting with the city’s arborist Grant Jones. They discussed the stress that the summer’s hot, dry conditions placed on trees – especially young trees trying to get established. “A lot of those really struggled,” Jones said. The city is currently doing a lot of pruning of trees for overhead power line clearance, and some trees are being removed in the area of Madison and Lorraine streets due to work on water and sewer lines. Jones assured tree commission members that the city was planting more trees that it was removing. Approximately 120 trees were planted in the spring, and another 88 are planned for this fall. The group also discussed the city’s new efforts to give tree roots a little more wiggle room by using a sidewalk surface that is rubbery and moves a bit rather than cracks from root pressure. The tree commission also discussed educational efforts in the city. Jones recently held a diagnostic program to help city residents determine if their trees were healthy or suffering with problems. Another program is planned on Oct. 8 that will focus on soils. The workshop will look at the difference between sandy and clay soil, and organic matter compaction. “Hopefully, we’re going to be able to be outside for it,” Jones said. Another seminar is planned in…


Park district takes aim at creating archery range

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Briana Witte is aiming for a bullseye with one of the newest programs to be offered by the Wood County Park District. Witte, a woodland specialist with the park district, is heading up the archery program which will include a new range for archers on Linwood Road, near Bowling Green. The archery program came about as a result of town hall meetings held across Wood County, asking local residents about park programs they would like to see. Two of the top requests were kayaking, canoeing and archery. The kayaking and canoeing are now in place, and the archery is on target to be ready soon. Archery, unlike so many other sports can be enjoyed by people of varied ages and skill levels, Witte said. “You don’t have to be in really good shape. You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to be fast. You just have to be patient,” Witte said. People will be able to use their own bows and arrows at the archery range, or they can use the compound bows purchased by the Friends of the Parks. “These are really nice because an 8-year-old can use it and with a few adjustments, a 50-year-old can use it,” Witte said of the compound bows. Adaptive bows will also be available for people who use wheelchairs or have other particular needs. Crossbows, which are typically used for hunting, will not be permitted at the archery range. Once completed, the archery range will be open from dawn to dusk. It will not be staffed unless there is a class or special event planned. Classes are planned for children and adults. “This is the only archery range in the county,” said Jamie Sands, communications specialist and volunteer coordinator. “The free, open access to being able to practice is wonderful.” Mobile archery ranges have been offered at parks throughout the county, but the permanent range on Linwood…


Park district to preserve farm, restore wetlands

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Doug and Mary Ellen Pratt sat on the porch of their farmhouse as people started showing up for the Wood County Park District meeting Tuesday. They gazed out on their cornfield as they talked about their plans to donate their property to the park district to preserve it for future generations. “We didn’t want it to turn into that,” Doug Pratt said, pointing at the roofs in a nearby housing subdivision. They guaranteed that won’t happen by turning over 160 acres of fields and farm homestead to the park district. Bob Hawker, park board president, praised the Pratts for their generosity and appreciation of parks. After Tuesday’s park board meeting, the board members toured the land and house that the Pratt’s were leaving to local citizens. For nearly two centuries, the farm settled by William Pratt in Perrysburg Township has stayed in the family’s care. The 160 acres of fields and farm homestead are split by Hull Prairie Road, just north of Roachton Road. The farmland is almost completely surrounded by housing developments, and will soon be neighbor to the newest Perrysburg school. The Pratts asked that the park district dedicate about 40 acres for sports fields, then use the remaining 120 acres for trails, trees, a pond, cross country skiing and picnic areas. The couple asked only that the park district be good stewards to their land. “Preserve it as open land and provide a place for recreation for years to come,” and preserve the family name, Mary Ellen Pratt asked. The 160-acre park area will be the second largest county park, next to the Bradner Preserve, and is estimated to be worth millions of dollars to the district. In addition to the acreage, the couple is also leaving their historic Hull Prairie home to the park district. The land and home will remain in the Pratts’ hands as long as they live. In other business,…


Science – not politics – needed to save Lake Erie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Protecting the health of Lake Erie can be an emotional issue – but the Wood County Commissioners were advised Tuesday to stick to the science. Bob Midden, a biochemist at BGSU, asked to speak to the commissioners about the health of Lake Erie. He encouraged them to ignore the politics and focus on science when deciding what to do. “Science can play a very valuable role in addressing these things,” he said. But politics often get in the way, and make decisions suspect. “What’s more important is to find a way to reduce algal blooms,” Midden said. In the last month or so, the county commissioners have heard a request from environmentalists that they join other elected officials in the region seeking an “impaired designation” for Lake Erie. And they have heard from a local farmer requesting that they let the agricultural community continue to make improvements rather than adding more regulations. Midden did not push for either approach, but instead suggested that the commissioners look at strategies that have worked elsewhere. Do voluntary measures work, he asked. “This is a complex issue,” he said. “But also a very important and very urgent issue. We’ve got a lot at stake.” At stake are the economics of both the lake and agriculture. “We don’t want to sacrifice one for the other,” he said. Also at risk is the health of humans and animals. Midden said ingestion of the algal blooms can cause liver damage, gastrointestinal problems, and death to humans and animals. “It can kill people,” he said. And long-term exposure may cause cancer. Midden warned that a lack of action will lead to disastrous results. “We’ve got to get it under control,” he said. “You can consider Lake Erie to be a cesspool eventually if we don’t do anything.” The commissioners have seen people point fingers at farmers for the problem, and farmers point fingers at overflowing…


Musicians to sing for the climate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Activism and musical entertainment will come together in a Concert for the Climate Saturday starting at 7 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. The goal, said musician Dustin Galish, is “to try to register people to vote and generate a dialogue about environmental and green energy issues.”                   Grounds for Thought is a good venue for the event. It’s a place people come to discuss issues, he said. “Music has inherently always been anti-establishment and about stirring things up, doing that in a positive way,” he said. “There’s always a history of when the time is right of talking about the issues you care about. Music does bring people together. It’s a good bridge.” Galish’s own band Tree No Leaves will headline the event. It’s been awhile since he’s had a show at Grounds and as a field organizer for NextGen Climate, the timing seemed perfect.   NextGen is a national effort geared up to register voters and promote action to combat climate change. Galish said the group has been active registering voters every day since students arrived back on campus. NextGen Climate is helping with the show, and there’ll be tables set up for other environmental groups including those from campus. “There’s a good amount of environmental activism in the area.”   He called around to bands to see who was interested in playing. Sage Rozzel’s Beats by Sage will spin tunes, including originals at 7 p.m., as people gather and converse. Tim Concannon will open the concert at 8 p.m. The show will also feature singer-songwriter Justin Payne, who is recently back in town after an extensive tour. College rockers Balance Bird open the band portion with Tree No leaves batting cleanup.   Also making appearance will be the Mechanical Cat. Galish said the other acts won’t necessarily include any topical material. Mechanical Cat, though, trades in his own surreal way…


Pipeline officials promise to treat land and landowners fairly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Pipeline officials with Kinder Morgan don’t see the protests by Wood County landowners as a fatal flaw to the Utopia pipeline plans to cross their properties. When landowners say “no,” the pipeline officials hear “maybe,” according to Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. Often property owners hold out until the eminent domain process is underway, but end up entering agreements with pipeline companies, Fore said. In fact, 98 percent of the land acquisition done by Kinder Morgan never gets to the point of final court resolution, he added. “We have worked with tens of thousands of landowners,” Fore said during a recent stop in Bowling Green. Several landowners in Wood County are protesting Kinder Morgan’s efforts to access their land through eminent domain. Fore believes that’s because they aren’t aware of the compensation that will be offered and the mitigation to their property that will be provided. Some of the landowners from the Pemberville area have stated that no amount of money will convince them to let the pipeline be buried on their farmland or building lots. But Fore said these objections are no different than those he has resolved before. “There’s a lot of passion in the process,” he said. “The challenge is on us to make sure people have accurate information.” “It may start out adversarial, but often it doesn’t end that way,” Fore said. But this case may be a bit different since the proposed Utopia pipeline is not sending natural gas to sites to generate public power. The Utopia line will be sending ethane to a private company in Ontario that makes plastic products. Therefore, the local landowners are asking the courts to rule that the Utopia pipeline does not qualify for eminent domain authority. But Fore argued that gathering ethane is part of the natural gas production process when it’s extracted from shale in southeastern Ohio. “There wouldn’t…


Bringing solar power out of the dark ages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio may be the nation’s leading solar manufacturer, but some state leaders’ attitudes about solar are back in the dark ages, according to Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. However, Bowling Green could be a “game changer” – building the largest solar field in the state. “Next year, Bowling Green, Wood County will be the mecca.” It’s appropriate that Bowling Green take the lead, Spratley said, since the city was the first to erect utility scale wind turbines in 2003. Maybe the Bowling Green solar field can convince politicians that harnessing the power of the sun is no longer radical. “They still think solar is out in the future. Solar is here now,” Spratley said. “We’ve got to get past these buggy whip manufacturers.” Spratley said he runs into solar investors around the country, curious about Ohio’s reluctance to support solar power. “What the hell is happening in Ohio,” he said they ask him. The state legislature has frozen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, he said. Consequently, renewable energy comprises just 3 percent of the overall mix of electricity sources in the state. “We need to send a message to free the hostages in Columbus,” he said of possible solar funding to “get power to the people.” Spratley was one of many speakers at the “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” conference in Bowling Green on Thursday. He was joined by leaders of renewable energy companies, representatives of solar companies, officials from communities using solar power, and green energy advocates. Solar power used to be “for off-the-wall hippies,” said David Dwyer, president of American Renewable Energy. But that is no longer the case. For those unable to access solar power on their roofs, community solar was created, according to Mark Wilkerson, of Clean Energy Collective. “Solar had to transcend politics,” said Wilkerson, who has worked in the solar industry for more than three decades. “It’s the extension…


Environmentalists and farmers shouldn’t be at odds on Lake Erie

(As submitted by Mike Ferner, Coordinator Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie) Responding to your article, “Farmer asks County not to declare Lake Erie ‘impaired,’”  in the BG Independent News, it is important to say that “simple farmers,” as Mr. Drewes defines himself, and people who want to clean up Lake Erie are not enemies and in fact have much in common. I grew up and worked on farms in Richfield Twp., in western Lucas County, spending many summers hoeing corn, soy beans and sugar beets and baling hay.  In those days factory farming was unheard of and I know from my own experience that traditional farmers try to be good stewards of the land and water. Up until 20-some years ago, many more family farms supported the rural economy and grocery stores had plenty of milk, eggs, hamburger and pork chops without CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) even being imagined.   Today, the Ohio Farmers Union, representing a dwindling number of “simple farmers,” is very opposed to the radically unsustainable form of agriculture represented by CAFOs.  This industrial form of food production is the exception to a long tradition of farming methods and history shows it’s not necessary. “Only” 146 CAFOs in the Western Lake Erie Watershed generate an amount of animal waste equal to the sewage output of Chicago and Los Angeles combined — some 700,000,000 gallons annually.  That does not include an unknown number of “one-under” operations that stay just below the number of animals that requires registration with the EPA. The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture estimates 80-85% of excess nutrients going into Lake Erie are from agriculture and there can be little doubt that most of it comes from CAFOs. So we are faced with a big problem that will only get worse if we ignore it. Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie supports the same kind of cleanup for Lake Erie that is ongoing with the Chesapeake Bay.  The U.S. EPA is overseeing an inventory of…