Shared from the 4/22/2018 Sandusky Register eEdition

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Save Lake Erie

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Register photo/ERIN McLAUGHLIN

The calm Lake Erie water off the coast of Huron in late February.

The importance of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes to our area, to the economy and to the world, cannot be overstated. The Great Lakes are the largest body of freshwater on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet.

Lake Erie is the greatest natural resource in our region, the heart of our economy and communities. It provides incredible fishing, boating and other opportunities for fun and relaxation in addition to transportation and industry.

For too many years the lakes were environmentally abused and it showed. On today — Earth Day — it’s proper to observe we’ve come a long way since the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded in 1970, during the Nixon administration.

Our understanding of the ecosystems of the lake have broadened exponentially. In other words, we know much more now about what must be done to protect it, but we have not established the strong will needed to match that knowledge to assure everything that can be done gets done.

That, hopefully, has changed with a ruling from U.S. District Judge James Carr, who said he wants see hard evidence that the U.S. EPA is complying with the Clean Water Act. Carr ordered the agency to turn in status reports by May 15. The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. The environmental groups asked the judge to order the U.S. EPA to declare the open waters of Lake Erie as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. EPA essentially admitted it was in the wrong when it previously approved an Ohio EPA report that failed to determine if all of Lake Erie’s waters are impaired. Last month, the Ohio EPA released a draft report declaring Lake Erie’s open waters are indeed “impaired.”

The Ohio EPA should have determined years ago whether the waters of Lake Erie are “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, and the U.S. EPA should have insisted the state agency follow the law, the judge wrote in his 25-page opinion.

A local environmentalist, Rick Graham of Monroeville, said it’s time both agencies take action, and he hopes the judge sticks to his guns.

“It appears that he is ready to hold people accountable for doing their jobs in accord with the Clean Water Act ... I think that he is not going to allow any more delaying tactics.”

We hope he’s right.

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