Many families, including my own, have been enjoying vacations and getaways this summer that are close to home. Northwest Ohio is an advantageous location that makes it convenient to travel to Lake Erie. I want to take this time to discuss how the state has prioritized the protection of our water quality in the western basin of Lake Erie so that we can continue to use it to its full potential.

Northwest Ohio is made up of agricultural and manufacturing communities with the cultivation of farms extending along the Maumee River. More specifically, these farms are strongholds in the cities of Defiance, Toledo, Van Wert, Lima, Findlay, Napoleon, and Perrysburg. The Maumee River watershed stretches from the St. Marys River, a main source that runs through Fort Wayne, through the city of Defiance before reaching Toledo. The Maumee River enters Lake Erie in Toledo.

Senate Bill 299, otherwise known as the Clean Lake 2020 Plan, will allow state funding to continue to support county soil and water conservation districts in the Western Lake Erie Basin. This bill appropriates $3.5 million from the General Revenue Fund for the Department of Agriculture and $20 million for the Soil and Water Phosphorus Program. The Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Lake Erie Commission and the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, must establish programs that will work to reduce the phosphorus and dissolved reactive phosphorus in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Along with the 2020 Plan to preserve our water, Senate Bill 299 appropriates $2.65 million to the Higher Education Improvement Fund for the Sea Grant - Stone Laboratory for the 2019-2020 fiscal year to be used by the Ohio Sea Grant Program for specified Stone Laboratory purposes. This funding will allow the program to purchase new in-lake monitoring equipment, including real-time buoys and water treatment plant monitoring sondes.

Last week, I visited the OSU Stone Lab team and spoke with several experts on how they study and analyze the water quality in Lake Erie. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about all the beneficial initiatives the Sea Grant Program is taking to improve the health of Lake Erie. Lake Erie is Ohio’s crown jewel, and the funding secured by Senate bill 299 is definitely a step in the right direction for the overall success of our Lake.