water

Many farmers part of Lake Erie solution – smaller fraction are big part of the problem

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Beth Landers comes from a long line of farmers – so she knows they can be stubborn, independent and proud. As the Portage River watershed coordinator with the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District, Landers sees first-hand the efforts and errors made by farmers. As this region tries to limit the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, Landers often hears people ask: “Why don’t the farmers just do ….?” That’s easier asked than answered, she said during a talk earlier this month to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. Landers started with a brief history lesson on Lake Erie’s woes over the last 60 years. In the 1960s, Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River were in such terrible shape that they caught on fire. “In the 1960s, it really came to a head,” she said. Then in 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed. That started changing the way rivers and lakes were treated in the U.S. “They were no longer something to carry away our waste,” Landers said. Municipalities were forced to focus on how they treated wastewater before sending it on its way, and farmers were urged to try no-till farming. “We spent an entire decade passing laws,” she said. “And the lake was still gross.” Then in 1988, the zebra mussels showed up in the lake. Though the creatures stirred up plenty of concerns, they managed to clean up the lake by the late 1990s. “We started actually seeing the lake recover,” Landers said. “It took 30 years and an invasive species.” The water became much clearer – making it more attractive to boaters, anglers, swimmers, and other tourists. But a side effect is that now sunlight can get further into the water and reach the phosphorus sediment in the lake – fueling the creation of algal blooms. In the aftermath of the algae crisis that led to an order to not drink the water in 2014, much of the blame has been placed on agriculture. So Landers often hears the farmers’ concerns. “Why is everybody blaming farmers? It’s not just…

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Toledo deal likely dead in the water, but search for options continues

By JERRY GREINER President, Northwestern Water & Sewer District At The District, we continue to explore options for water for our 6,500 customers in Northern Wood County who are currently served with water provided by The City of Toledo. The District owns and operates the water and sewer systems within the political subdivisions of Northwood, Rossford, Walbridge, Lake Township, Perrysburg Township, and Troy Township.  We have provided quality water services to these communities for years and will continue to focus on quality water and fair rates during these talks. If you are confused by media reports or are wondering where The District stands, hopefully, this summary can clear things up.  Keep in mind that talks continue and there are new developments daily, so the opinion in this entry is subject to change. The Toledo Area Water Authority (TAWA) The Toledo Chamber of Commerce-led proposal for Toledo to share ownership of their plant etc. has stalled most likely ended.  The current mayor of Toledo’s representative said they had no support from Toledo City Council to proceed with it.  The Toledo Chamber has done a remarkable job with the effort and expense and continues to have hope in some form of regional cooperation.  The District continues to participate in TAWA discussions, but at this point does not see it moving forward. TOLEDO WATER COMMISSION IDEA In late May, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz proposed a regional water commission.  In this plan, water purchasers (like The District) could buy water at a wholesale rate and have a “commission-like” board seat that would oversee rates.  However, Toledo would withhold the right to set final rates and retain ownership.  A technical committee has been meeting to review details of this plan. I think our Board of Trustees may support this idea for this concept as it meets our long-term goal; reasonable, uniform fair water rates.  While it keeps all suburban parties at the table, until Toledo’s council “weighs-in” on this idea, it’s just more talk.   PERRYSBURG-MAUMEE-THE NORTHWESTERN WATER AND SEWER DISTRICT AND THE CITY OF BOWLING GREEN Last Thursday, The District’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution to partner with the Cities…


BG water rates hiked 6 percent annually for next 5 years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green will see a 6 percent bump in its water rates each year for the next five years. The increase was approved by the Board of Public Utilities earlier this week as a way to keep the water expenses afloat. The new rates, which go into effect in June, are based on a rate study by Courtney & Associates found that revenues need to be hiked by 32 percent by 2022. While the 32 percent hike may sound big, even with the proposed rate increases, Bowling Green’s water rates will be much lower than those in some other communities in the region, according to the rate study. The average homeowner currently pays a monthly water bill of $11.46. With the five-year increase, that bill will be $16 a month. That compares to monthly bills more than $50 in Perrysburg, Napoleon and Fremont. John Courtney, who presented the water rate study, said Bowling Green has been able to keep its water rates low because city officials decided years ago to use money from income tax revenues to help fund the city water system. “Your rates are still the lowest on the list,” Courtney told the Board of Public Utilities. But the income tax fund made up 40 percent of the water rate expenses 10 years ago. That shrunk to 33 percent five years ago, and is now about 23 percent. “Your costs are going up,” Courtney said. The city has seen some growth in wholesale water sales to communities outside Bowling Green, but very little growth in water demands in the city. “Your sales have been fairly stable over the last several years,” Courtney said. The city has not increased its water rates since 2016. Meanwhile operating expenses continue to increase. At current rates, the different categories of water customers generate the following annual revenues: Residential, $1,025,800 Commercial/industrial, $2,307,100 Wholesale, $2,178,900 Hydrant, $35,900 The proposed rate changes called for: Phase-in increases over the next five years. Increase rates to result in an increase in revenue of approximately 6 percent each year. Increase…


Clean Lake 2020 Plan earns bipartisan support

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A perfect storm of sorts has led to the latest effort to fight for the health of Lake Erie – including weather projections of a moderate to bad year for algal blooms. So far this year, the lake has been the focus of a federal court order, U.S. EPA emphasis, Ohio EPA impairment declaration and a less than ideal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast. “All these factors created a sense of urgency that perhaps should have already been there,” State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said. And others in the state legislature seem to agree, showing strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly as a bill and a proposed statewide bond issue was introduced Wednesday in the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The Clean Lake 2020 Plan, introduced by Gardner and State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, includes funding of up to $36 million in 2018 for efforts to reduce algal blooms through conservation practices and other Lake Erie initiatives. Also proposed is a Clean Water Ohio Bond Issue that would appropriate $100 million per year for 10 years after statewide approval by voters. Gardner believes that even those Ohio voters at the southern end of the state will support the bond issue since it involves help for more than just Lake Erie. The Ohio River has also seen its share of algal bloom problems. But the primary focus will be on Lake Erie, since an estimated 5 million people rely on the lake for drinking water, and tens of thousands of jobs depend on the lake. “That demands that the priority be on Lake Erie,” he said. The Ohio EPA’s declaration that the open waters of Lake Erie are impaired means little if the state doesn’t act, Gardner said. “The most important thing is – what do we do about it,” he said. “It’s what we do from now.” “Almost everyone realizes there’s a lot of work to be done to help the lake,” he said. One of the biggest factors in the algal bloom issue is something state…


BG water rates staggered to make easier to swallow

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s water rates are not bringing in enough to keep the water expenses afloat. A rate study by Courtney & Associates has found that revenues need to be hiked by 32 percent by 2022. If approved, those rate increases will be spread out over five years, with a 6 percent bump each year. While the 32 percent hike may sound big, even with the proposed rate increases, Bowling Green’s water rates will be much lower than those in some other communities in the region. The average homeowner currently pays a monthly water bill of $11.46. With the five-year increase, that bill will be $16 a month. That compares to monthly bills more than $50 in Perrysburg, Napoleon and Fremont. Though the total water revenue will need to be boosted by 32 percent over five years, the levels will be different for each category. Residential will be increased 44 percent over that period; commercial and industrial will go up 29 percent; wholesale will increase 28 percent; and hydrant costs will go up 143 percent. John Courtney, who presented the water rate study, said Bowling Green has been able to keep its water rates low because city officials decided years ago to use money from income tax revenues to help fund the city water system. “Your rates are still the lowest on the list,” Courtney told the Board of Public Utilities last week. “That’s awesome,” replied Mike Frost, president of the Board of Public Utilities. But the income tax fund made up 40 percent of the water rate expenses 10 years ago. That shrunk to 33 percent five years ago, and is now about 23 percent. “Your costs are going up,” Courtney said. The city has seen some growth in wholesale water sales to communities outside Bowling Green, but very little growth in water demands in the city. “Your sales have been fairly stable over the last several years,” Courtney said. The city has not increased its water rates since 2016. Meanwhile operating expenses continue to increase. At current rates, the different categories…


Protecting Great Lakes focus of Lamb Peace Lecture

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Earth Week 2018 at Bowling Green State University kicks off April 16 with the annual Lamb Peace Lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater. The free lecture is titled “Policy, Politics and Pollution in the Great Lakes Basin: If Protections Are Good, Why Are Regulations Bad?” with Lana Pollack, chair of the U.S. section, International Joint Commission (IJC). The IJC was established by the U.S. and Canada to address issues related to boundary waters including the Great Lakes. Pollack was appointed chair by President Barack Obama in June 2010. She has had a diverse career in public office, education and the public interest sector. From 1996-2008, she was president of the Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of 70 environmental organizations working to protect the Great Lakes and Michigan’s environment. She was elected three times to the Michigan legislature, serving as a state senator from 1983-94. During her tenure, she was a leading advocate for women, children and the environment and earned praise as the architect of Michigan’s landmark 1990 polluter pay statute. Pollack was a Fellow at the institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, taught at the University of Michigan and was an elected trustee of the Ann Arbor Board of Education. She served on a number of educational, nonprofit and corporate boards, including the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, which annually directed $35 million to $50 million in discretionary public funds to protect, purchase and enhance parkland and open space for preservation and recreation. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. BGSU’s Edward Lamb Peace Lecture annually brings internationally recognized experts to campus to address major environmental issues and how they affect world security. The lecture series began in 1986 in honor of the late Edward Lamb, a prominent Toledo lawyer committed to social justice, civil rights and world peace. It is underwritten by the Lamb Foundation of Toledo.


BGSU faculty work was key to impaired designation for Lake Erie

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. John Kasich have designated the western basin of Lake Erie – from Toledo to Marblehead – as an impaired waterway due to toxic algae. This designation comes after consultation with experts from Bowling Green State University, among other organizations. “This is a great first step, a recognition of the fact that these blooms are impairing Lake Erie,” said Dr. Timothy Davis, BGSU associate professor of biological sciences. “This is clearly the right decision.” Davis and Drs. George Bullerjahn, Professor of Research Excellence, and Michael McKay, Ryan Endowed Professor, all in the Department of Biological Sciences were part of the team that developed the criteria used to declare the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie impaired. This included determining what metrics should be used and how they should be used. “We’ve known for a while that these blooms have been a major issue to the region, and this is really a formal acknowledgement of that issue,” Davis said. “It gives us a benchmark to work toward to delist it.” “It’s going to take significant nutrient reduction from the watershed to remove the impairment designation,” Davis said. “In conjunction with Annex 4, which recommends a 40 percent phosphorus reduction, we will now have great targets to aim for to reduce the impact harmful algal blooms are having in the western basin of Lake Erie.” The team advising the Ohio EPA also included scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program, the University of Toledo and the U.S. EPA in making this determination. Lake Erie — its water, inhabitants and surrounding habitat — has long been the topic of research by BGSU biology faculty. Bullerjahn, Davis and McKay all have a deep history of expertise in and support of Lake Erie water quality research and support. Davis has worked with the EPA previously; he was appointed to the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), a federal advisory committee that provides advice, information and recommendations to the EPA’s Office of Research and…