A legislative committee on Monday cleared the way for new rules restricting some farmers from spreading manure on frozen land to prevent it from running off into Ohio’s largest inland lake and other waters.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources hopes to have the rules in place before the end of the year. It can now move forward with the plan after the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review determined the agency has the authority to do so.
The regulations stem from an outbreak of toxic algae at Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio this summer that led to water warnings and a decline in tourism. The lake, midway between Toledo and Dayton, is one of the state’s most polluted because of run-off of manure and fertilizer from nearby farms.
Beth Vanderkooi of the Ohio Farm Bureau called the rules "a reasonable approach." She said the group plans to monitor how the department moves forward with the plan after initial concerns that it would go too far.
Environmental advocates on Monday told the committee that the winter ban was critical to stopping the manure from flowing into the Grand Lake St. Marys’ watershed after the snow melts, the ground thaws and the spring rainfall begins.
The 13,500-acre lake is used for recreation and drinking water. Its watershed covers more than 59,000 acres.
"Without a change in the current system, it is not hard to believe that the worst is yet to come," said Bill Ringo, vice president of the Friends for the Preservation of Ohio State Parks Association.
Once the department’s regulations take effect, farmers in the areas impacted by manure run-off would have two years before they would be banned from putting it on their fields. During that two-year period, they would be required to follow federal guidelines for manure application and develop a plan for how to get rid of and apply manure in the future…
…farmers could apply for state aid to help build a storage unit for the manure. The new rules would double the amount of state help a farmer could get — to $30,000 from $15,000. Farmers also could get federal assistance to help them develop a manure management plan.