12/4/17
PUBLIC INTEREST CENTER, (614) 644-2160
MEDIA CONTACT: Dina Pierce
CITIZEN CONTACT: Heather Lauer

Ohio EPA Holding Hearing about Wabash River Water Quality Use Designations

Public Meeting Set Dec. 18 in Columbus

As part of ongoing efforts to document and improve the state’s water quality, Ohio EPA is updating the rule setting beneficial use designations for the Wabash River watershed in western Ohio. A public hearing about the rule will be held Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, at Ohio EPA’s Central Office in Columbus.

The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. in the Lazarus Government Center, 50 W. Town Street, Suite 700, Columbus. During the hearing, Ohio EPA will accept comments about the proposed rules. Individuals wanting to present testimony can register by calling (614) 644-2160. Visitors to the building must present a photo ID.

In Ohio, the Wabash River travels 43 miles in Auglaize, Darke and Mercer counties where it enters Indiana and flows another 467 miles before reaching the Ohio River at Evansville. Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) is part of the watershed, discharging to the Wabash River via Beaver Creek. These proposed rules make no changes in the standards applicable to GLSM or the aquatic life standards for streams draining into the lake.

The Wabash River from Fort Recovery to the state line is capable of attaining its current Warmwater Habitat use designation. The proposed rule revisions would change the designations for two segments of the Wabash River and for 14 other streams. Most of the revised plus eight new designations assign either the Modified Warmwater or the Limited Resource Water aquatic life use designation.

“Warmwater Habitat" (WWH) describes and applies to typical rivers, streams and creeks found throughout Ohio. This stream habitat has many natural features and supports healthy, well balanced populations of fish and other aquatic life. “Modified Warmwater Habitat” (MWH) and “Limited Resource Waters” (LRW) support less diverse aquatic life because natural stream channel features are lacking due to extensive channel maintenance that is necessary for improved drainage and flood protection.

Biological and water quality sampling conducted by Ohio EPA has shown that the WWH designation is not being attained because of stream channelization and drainage maintenance work. Once adopted, the proposed designations of MWH and LRW must be reviewed every three years under the federal Clean Water Act. If watershed restoration plans are in place and those plans address the key factors impacting aquatic life, the WWH designation can be re-established. 

Streams sampled in the GLSM watershed also fall short of meeting WWH biological criteria. However, no changes in aquatic life standards are proposed at this time because of the watershed’s designation as a “watershed in distress,” and the ongoing watershed planning and funding of restoration efforts. 

After considering public comments, Ohio EPA will make any necessary changes and finalize the rule changes.

Comments on the rules may be presented at the hearing, or submitted in writing to Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Attention: Emily DeLay, Lazarus Government Center, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049, or by emailing dsw_rulecomments@epa.ohio.gov. The public comment period ends at close of business Dec. 18. 

For more information on the proposed rules update, visit the Division of Surface Water webpage. Please see the information under the “proposed rules” tab. A fact sheet about the proposed rules also is available.

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The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.


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