Small but vital streams could lose their protections in Ohio / Public News Service

Ephemeral streams are considered the backbone of a watershed. (bgwashburn / Flickr)

By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman – Producer, Contact

May 25, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A vital part of Ohio’s watersheds would lose environmental protection under a bill.

A committee hearing will be held today on Internal bill 175. It changes the definition of ephemeral watercourses, making waterways more prone to Clean Water Act regulations in Ohio.

Emily Obringer, water conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club Ohio chapter, explained that ephemeral streams have water that flows only during and after rainfall and are located above the water table.

The state’s Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are roughly 36 thousand miles ephemeral streams in Ohio, but Obringer said other estimates are closer to 45,000 miles.

“Basically, deregulation would affect all of Ohio’s watersheds,” Obringer said.

Representative Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, argued that it was absurd to remove protections for ephemeral flows as the state spends millions of dollars on the H2Ohio water quality initiative.

“Water is life,” Brent said. “Ohio is so lucky that we have Lake Erie here. And reducing our investment in making sure our water is taken seriously is a huge threat to our quality of life.”

Supporters of the bill have argued that it would remove costly barriers to economic development and clarify the types of water features that can be regulated.

Obringer added as part of Bill 175, the various industries that pollute ephemeral streams would no longer be financially responsible for the cleanup.

“Ohio taxpayers and municipalities would foot the bill for maintaining drinking water standards and mitigating streams,” Obringer reported.

Brent argued Ohio should avoid easing any water protection regulations after Trump administration Navigable Waters Protection Rule reduces the waterways covered by the federal law on sanitation of water.

“Now when we look at what our state is doing and what multiple states are doing, it basically opens us up to tell the world that you can do anything with water no matter where you are at, and that the Ohio is going to be Okay, ”Brent pointed out.

House Agriculture and Conservation Committee hearing begins at 9:00 a.m.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter contributes to our Energy Policy, Public Lands / Wilderness, City Planning / Transportation and Water Reporting Fund. If you would like to help support the news in the public interest, click here.
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