Anglers who fish Lake Erie or who live in Ohio, we need your help today.
Please call your senator and ask for amendments to H.B. 473. (Talking points and phone numbers are below.)
Bob Townsend, conservation director for the Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, answered the call of duty last week by testifying in the Ohio legislature against the proposed bill to implement the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. If passed, the bill would — among other things — make it very difficult for the public to appeal water withdrawals if said withdrawal would damage the fishery. Townsend testified in favor of amending the bill before its passage.
Townsend has been on top of the issue, according to Noreen Clough, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, including working with American Sportfishing Association to put out a Keep America Fishing alert, preparing a letter addressed to the state senate committee and spending countless hours talking to key stakeholders. "Immediately after testifying," said Clough, "he joined others in making office visits to Senators and Representatives, making our case.
"We are now waiting on the outcome," continued Clough, "hoping our concerns and those of the myriad other conservation and fishing organizations will be heard and the bill will be amended."
"Call today," said Townsend. "If no one answers, leave a message, simply requesting the senator to amend H.B. 473."
You can read the full bill, House Bill 473, here. Below are talking points and senators' phone numbers, followed by Townsend's testimony. To learn more, contact Townsend by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, 937-408-4453.
I strongly oppose portions of HB 473.
May 8, 2012
Opposition Testimony to House Bill 473
Great Lakes Compact Implementation
Ohio Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Committee
Bob Townsend, Conservation Director, Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation Nation
Chairman Hite, Vice-Chair Schaffer, Ranking Minority Member Gentile and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify on House Bill 473.
My name is Bob Townsend and I am the Conservation Director for the Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation Nation (OBFN). If I appear uncomfortable, it is because I am. I am not a professional lobbyist, I am a machinist. I have taken the day off work to come here and express opposition testimony to House Bill 473, to implement the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The OBFN is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization that conducts catch-and-release bass fishing tournaments, youth fishing events and conservation projects on Ohio waters. In my position as the OBFN Conservation Director, I represent more than 10,000 B.A.S.S. members statewide, who have a vested interest and great appreciation of Ohio waters and the fisheries they support. At this hearing I am also representing B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, Noreen Clough, and B.A.S.S. LLC, with 500,000 members nationwide. In the May 2012 issue of Bassmaster Magazine, Lake Erie is featured as #4 of America’s top 100 bass fishing destinations.
There are three major concerns that we have with House Bill 473, which in our eyes will impact Lake Erie’s fishery and strip our rights to appeal a large water use if that use will impact our ability to fish or recreate on rivers and streams that drain to Lake Erie or on the Lake itself.
Section 1522.101 of the bill would repeal existing Ohio law which requires no significant adverse impacts to the Lake Erie basin as a whole or to a tributary from which a withdrawal or consumptive use occurs. This law also requires consideration of local impacts to stream segments and requires those impacts be weighed against economic and societal needs. This meets the requirements of the Compact that Lake Erie andits tributaries be protected from negative impacts from large water uses. To repeal this statute will extend protection of the Compact only when the entire Lake Erie basin is threatened by a proposed water withdrawal or consumptive use, which would not be in full compliance with the Compact. Tributaries would only be subject to Section 4.11.5 of the Compact. The result could be reduced critical spawning and rearing habitat for fish, and concentrated pollutants, including nutrient overloading that results in toxic algae blooms, resulting in serious economic and social impacts to Ohio’s $10 billion Lake tourism industry. The Ohio B.A.S.S. members are acutely aware these issues due to the recent health warnings, lake closures, millions of dollars of lost local revenues and remediation costs associated with combatting toxic algae blooms due to nutrient overloading on Grand Lake St.Marys.
Section 1522.21 proposes to measure water withdrawals and consumptive uses on a 90-day average, not a “per day” measure. Fish and other aquatic resources do not exist in averaged conditions, but depend on sufficient water quality and quantity on a daily basis. If this measure is implemented it means that heavy water users could withdraw and consume quantities of water that would exceed permit thresholds without having to obtain a permit. This could result in substantial de-watering of streams and other segments covered by the Compact. It takes no great leap of logic to realize that averaging use over a 90-day period during the summer months could easily have a large adverse effect and the small tributaries would be especially vulnerable. B.A.S.S. LLC and Ohio B.A.S.S. anglers see the wording of this bill as an opportunity for industrial interests to avoid permitting and reporting requirements. Ohio anglers are required to be licensed to fish. Ohio anglers are permitted to keep five bass per day. Our anglers realize that licenses, permits and consumptive use limits are put in place to protect natural resources for all Ohio citizens. We know that creel limits are set so that the ODNR can accurately predict a total harvest that will not endanger the resource and provide great fishing opportunities for future generations. We know the fishing rules and regulations that we adhere to now are simply in our own best interests so that we will not be forced to implement more restrictive regulations in the future and will have a viable resource for tomorrow. We see this being the same standard for industry interests concerning water usage, and it follows that water withdrawal and consumptive use thresholds must be measured on a per day basis only, so that it can be accurately managed by state agencies for a predictable future viability.
Section 1522.21(B) of the bill is of very serious concern to B.A.S.S. LLC and the OBFN. B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Noreen Clough and I have discussed this in-depth, and we recognize it as an unacceptable restriction of angler and other citizen rights. It appears to be an attempt to make appeal by citizens prohibitively expensive through court litigation. If this section remains in the proposed legislation, the rights of anglers, boaters and other recreational water users of Lake Erie to appeal a water withdrawal or water use decision that may negatively impact their ability to enjoy Ohio’s rivers and streams will be denied. As written, this bill will allow the right of appeal of a permit decision only to water users that can prove injury to a direct economic or property interest. This appears to fly in the face of public trust doctrine and will create litigation as the only redress. The OBFN and B.A.S.S. have had the privilege to conduct more than eight major, multi-day events on Lake Erie over the last several years. With a direct economic impact of over a quarter-million dollars a day, our organizations have had a substantial effect on the area economies of Port Clinton and Sandusky. Through the pages of Bassmaster Magazine and televised coverage of events on ESPN, the indirect economic impact, by the half a million readers and millions of viewers, is substantial. It would be costly to OBFN to prove their direct economic interest, restricting our ability to use what little money we have on conservation projects. As Ohio citizens with a looming state deficit, we see the inevitability of the state defending this section in the courts as simply unnecessary spending.
We hope that you will give our concerns serious consideration as this proposed bill moves forward. As currently crafted it could have serious adverse impacts on Ohio’s great fishery resources and on thousands of anglers, including the hundreds of professional and other B.A.S.S. anglers, who currently enjoy them.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak. I can take any questions at this time.
Robert J. Townsend
Ohio B.A.S.S. Federation Nation