Excerpts from a Daily Standard story by Nancy Allen:
– Karl Gebhardt, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources, spoke to a capacity crowd at Saturday's Lake Improvement Association meeting at the Celina Moose Lodge.
– Gebhardt said chief's orders will be issued to farmers who do not meet a Dec. 15 deadline to have a nutrient management plan – one part of the new rules local livestock farmers must follow due to the watershed being designated distressed in 2010. "I've been challenged by some with 'yeah, I'll believe it when I see it,' " Gebhardt said of issuing chief's orders. "I'm telling you, you're going to see it."
– Gebhardt said 18 of the 156 farm operations required to have nutrient management plans have not submitted them. "Several have chosen not to participate," he said. "We'll deal with those folks."
– A chief's order will advise a remedy in a specified amount of time. Violation of a chief's order is a first-degree misdemeanor. Noncompliance with a chief's order could result in a case being referred to the Ohio Attorney General's Office and then a local court for prosecution. Gebhardt said he also might refer cases to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to force farms to follow the same rules as a state-permitted facility.
– The 156 farm operations own 270 livestock farms in the 58,000-acre watershed that drains into the lake. Grand Lake has been under state-issued water advisories the last four summers due to unsafe algae toxin levels.
– Gephardt noted farmers have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. When officials first began a push a few years ago to have farmers get the plans, just 25 percent of the 46,000 crop acres in the watershed were covered for manure application. To date, 85 percent of those acres are covered, he said. Gebhardt said the state must follow through with consequences for breaking the rules.
– Another approaching deadline is Jan. 19, the date when farmers will be banned from applying any manure from Dec. 15 through March 1 unless permission from the state is received. Farmers also will be banned from surface applying manure on frozen ground or ground with more than one inch of snow outside those dates, must show they have 120 days of manure storage and cannot surface apply manure if the local forecast has greater than 50 percent chance of exceeding a half inch of precipitation 24 hours after application starts. If the ground is frozen and/or snow-covered outside the Dec. 15 through March 1 time period, farmers can apply manure as long as they work it into the ground within 24 hours. On-farm inspections are expected to start a few months after Jan. 19 and will be done every three years.
– There's a push to help businesses take manure out of the watershed to use as a resource. A company from Wisconsin has stalled plans to build a plant that would have turned manure into organic fertilizer after financing fell through.
– Gebhardt promised to look for state money to keep funding two nutrient management technician positions for at least another two years and to make more state staff available to the watershed to help with keeping the plans up to date.