TOLEDO (WTOL) - The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is facing legal trouble.
Its supporters are now fighting back, filing a motion Monday to allow Lake Erie to defend its own rights.
"We’re filing a joint motion to intervene as Toledoans for Safe Water and as the Lake Erie ecosystem itself, which under Lake Erie Bill of Rights should be a recognized party to this lawsuit,” organizer Markie Miller said.
Toledo voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in a special election February 26. Less than 24 hours later, the Drewes Farm Partnership began a federal lawsuit against the City of Toledo, hoping to overturn the city's new charter amendment. It's the first of many legal battles supporters of the bill hope to tackle.
The new city charter amendment grants legal rights to Lake Erie to “exist, thrive, and naturally flourish.” Supporters feel conventional pollution laws and voluntary action don’t do enough to protect the lake from pollution and elements causing harmful algal blooms, such as phosphorus.
Yet enforcing Lake Erie’s new rights may prove difficult for the city of Toledo. And supporters fear the city won't back the bill. Many farming communities believe the bill threatens agricultural interests.
"I understand why they [the city of Toledo] entered into an agreement to just suspend the effect of the law until there’s a court decision about it. But we think that the law is valid. It is necessary to begin enforcement activity under,” Terry Lodge, legal counsel for Toledoans for Safe Water, said.
Ultimately, supporters say they don’t want to thwart farming interests. Rather, they want to spark change to protect Lake Erie and prevent future water crises.
"If your organization, your business, or anything is threatened by pollution laws, and it's going to affect this community, then this community needs to have a stronger voice in being able to say if we want to be affected by that,” Miller said.
Miller says they may have to consider fundraising to support the bill’s legal costs. In the meantime, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is representing Toledoans for Safe Water in their motions.