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New bill regulates farmers and stops algae from blooming

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A bill aimed at preventing more algae from contaminating water in Lake Erie was passed Wednesday after being considered by the Ohio House for a month.

Senate Bill 1, which would regulate farmers’ use of fertilizer, manure and other substances and practices that have contributed to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, is expected to be signed into law by Gov. John Kasich and will go into effect 90 days later.

The bill forbids surface fertilizer application by anyone in the western basin when the ground is covered in snow or when the top two inches of soil are saturated by precipitation. However, there are some exceptions; this is permitted if the manure is injected into the ground or if it is applied to a growing crop.

One provision will also allow certain farmers to have one to two years to comply with the manure component, depending on the size of their farm, said Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who, along with Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Sabina, is a primary sponsor of the bill.

Gardner, who has been working on the bill for about four years, said that this is the most comprehensive bill regarding regulations to solve the algal bloom in Lake Erie.

“My Senate district has the longest shoreline of any Senate district in the state,” Gardner said. “I both have heavy agriculture in my district as well as the longest Lake Erie shoreline. So it’s a natural issue for me to be especially concerned about.”

The bill was first considered by the House on Feb. 25 and was then referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. A substitute bill, referred to as Sub. SB 1, was then presented to the House, where it passed in a 15 to 1 vote on March 25.  The main difference between SB 1 and Sub. SB 1 is that SB 1 declared a state of emergency while Sub. SB 1 does not. If the original bill had been passed, the new regulations would have gone into effect immediately.

Kasich also signed an executive order last week to stop disposal of dredge material into Lake Erie, according to a press release by the Ohio Senate.

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