Ohio voters will determine the fate of an issue that grew out of discussions about the need to prevent water in the Great Lakes from being diverted to other states.
State Issue 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot calls for a constitutional amendment to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and waterways. It would make explicit that property owners have the right of reasonable use of ground water beneath their land as well as from lakes or waterways bordering or flowing through their property.
The issue arose this year in the General Assembly when lawmakers debated the merits of Ohio ratifying the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. The multistate agreement, awaiting action in Congress, would govern water use in the Great Lakes basin, including protection against diversions to arid parts of the nation or foreign countries lacking adequate water supplies.
Legislatures in all eight Great Lakes states have ratified the accord, but the debate was most acrimonious in the Ohio General Assembly where state Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland, raised the private property rights issue. He recently told Columbus Business First he fears the language in the Great Lakes compact has the potential to threaten private water rights. It would allow the water rights in the Great Lakes basin, which extends into 35 northern Ohio counties, to be held in a public trust by a government agency instead of just the water in the lakes, Grendell said.
“If government gives a privilege, it can take away a privilege,” he said. “There is substantial potential to interfere with private control of water.” more