While we continue to engage businesses and organizations to join the Ohio Water Partnership prior to our official launch, we are beginning to establish relationships with key state officials and policymakers as an organization. Yesterday, the Ohio Water Partnership attended an invitation-only meeting of the H2Ohio Stakeholders organized by the DeWine Administration. The focus was on future plans for H2Ohio. Stakeholders received a refresher briefing on H2Ohio accomplishments, and then insight into the plans for H2Ohio to be expected from the Governor’s Executive Budget as introduced.
At a high level:
Director Dorothy Pelanda of the Department of Agriculture discussed the continuation of the best management practices (“BMP”) program assisting farmers in 14 counties with nutrient, water & erosion management, and then the addition of 10 counties eligible for assistance in the voluntary nutrient management plans (“VNMP”) with the goal to bring the total to more than 2 million acres across 24 counties enrolled in some aspect of the program. Also key is the implementation of HB7 (113rd G.A.) and the appointment of 7 watershed coordinators, the first step to implementing the Statewide Watershed Planning & Management Program;
Director Mary Mertz of the Department of Natural Resources discussed the expansion of the wetland restoration program with the expectation of doubling the number of projects and, while keeping a focus on the Western Lake Erie basin, expanding projects with new funding more into Northeast Ohio and the Ohio River basin.
Director Laurie Stevenson of the Environmental Protection Agency discussed the fact that many areas of Ohio still lack sufficient drinking water or wastewater infrastructure and plans to expand funding on water infrastructure investments across the state — especially lead service line replacement, replacement of failing home sewage treatment and drinking water infrastructure.
While most of the members of the Ohio Water Partnership are not directly engaged in H2Ohio funded projects, we all know the importance of clean, available, affordable water to the bottom line. When asked how the OWP and its member businesses could be supportive, the Directors emphasized the importance of business leaders generally educating policy makers and elected officials on the impacts of water to the bottom line of Ohio businesses. This will be a topic of focus of the partnership and its members as we move forward.
This is a high level summary of the issues discussed. For a complete video replay of the meeting and presentation slides, you can go to this link – H2Ohio Stakeholder Meeting 2/16/21, or watch the video below.