TOLEDO (WTOL) - In his biennial budget proposal Friday morning, Governor Mike DeWine outlined investments in children’s resources, addiction recovery, infrastructure, and more. A new investment in Lake Erie is one of the budget’s key features: The H2Ohio Initiative.
Sandy Bihn has been advocating for a clean Lake Erie for the better part of two decades. She said she’s cautious about Governor DeWine’s new H2Ohio initiative.
“We want accountability for the money, and we want to know that the Lake’s getting better and how much we have progressed with each investment that’s made,” Bihn said.
According to the governor, the H2Ohio Initiative sets aside up to $900 million over the next 10 years to protect Ohio’s water quality. The fund’s broad efforts include programs to minimize runoff, address water treatment needs, create more wetlands, among other things. The investment fund would be set aside from the rest of the state budget.
“Part of our problem in the past is we’ve sorta lurched from budget to budget. We need to set the money aside, so the scientists and everyone else looking at this can say 'Look we have this amount of money, now let’s figure out how over the next 10 years we’re going to spend this money,” Governor DeWine said at IMPACT Ohio’s regional conference in downtown Toledo Thursday.
Yet for Sandy, the solution for Lake Erie and the future of our water quality is simple: Reduce toxic elements causing harmful algal blooms.
"Whatever projects they do, before and after tell us how many pounds total of dissolved phosphorus are going into the lake before they do the project and how many are after,” Bihn said.
The fund’s money will be coming from current budget rollover and the next two fiscal years. Governor DeWine’s budget spells out how the first year of the fund’s $85 million would be spent. Yet the rest of the fund’s allocations would be decided later.
"We do not provide beyond that. Because quite candidly, we need additional planning,” Governor DeWine said.
No matter what the fund invests in, advocates like Sandy believe that investment will be for nothing if objective benchmarks are not established and accountability is non-existent.