The outgoing director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says he hopes the cooperation among state agencies continues during the new regime when it comes to battling toxic algae at Grand Lake St. Marys.
Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski submitted his resignation Tuesday, effective Jan. 9, to Gov. Ted Strickland. Korleski, who took over as director Feb. 1, 2007, visited Grand Lake St. Marys a handful of times when an outbreak of toxic algae hit the lake in 2009.
“We have continued to work closely with our partners at ODNR and our consultants to think very carefully on what we should be doing for the upcoming season,” Korleski told The Evening Leader. “I think it’s interesting and a good sign that the new director of agriculture is someone known in that area — Jim Zehringer. He has certainly taken an interest in this and I think it’s going to be a benefit to the community. I think he certainly will continue to take an interest in it. I don’t speak for Mr. Zehringer but that would be my prediction.”
Gov.-elect John Kasich has recently started naming his cabinet members. While he has yet to name a head of the Ohio EPA, Korleski said he believes that person will not forget about Grand Lake St. Marys.
“This is not something that is going to just get dropped,” Korleski said. “Obviously a lot of what happens is going to depend on the new administration and how they look at this. But certainly 2010 was a wake up call for the state in many, many respects. People are going to continue to work very hard on how to address that situation.”
Cooperation, Korleski said, is vital in order for progress to continue on healing Grand Lake St. Marys. During several appearances in the area, Korleski was joined by ODNR Director Sean Logan as well as the directors of the Ohio Department of Health and Agriculture.
“I think it’s critical that all the involved state agencies continue to talk to each other and work together and ask each other tough questions just like we did in the last year,” Korleski said. “It’s critical that those relationships remain strong, that the communication remain strong and that state regulatory agencies continue to communicate with all the folks up there — the communities. Everyone needs to keep talking and everyone needs be candid.”