COLUMBUS—On Wednesday the Governor signed House Bill 7, legislation championed by State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House). The bill establishes a statewide watershed planning and management program to coordinate and build upon the shared efforts of state and local partners to improve water quality throughout Ohio.
"I appreciate the collaboration of my colleagues, the Governor, and many different stakeholders representing agriculture, environmental, conservation and research communities in order to do what is best for Ohioans," said Peterson. "This new law will go a long way in improving water quality and access to safe, clean water in Ohio."
This new law establishes a program that is designed to fit the unique water quality needs throughout the state. Under the direction of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, each region will be assigned a watershed planning and management coordinator, filled by an existing employee in most cases, that will identify sources and areas of water quality impairment, which includes loading of phosphorous, dissolved reactive phosphorous and nitrogen. Those groups include the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University, The Nature Conservancy and various agricultural commodity groups. The program will help coordinate the many organizations who are working with local watershed professionals on management issues. The legislation allows for soil testing data and nutrient placement best practices to be collected in a centralized database under ODA and used to assist participants across the state. Additionally, the bill establishes a pilot program administered by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Lake Erie Commission and the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission that assists farmers, agricultural retailers and soil and water conservation districts in reducing phosphorus in distressed watersheds.