During the 2023 State of the State Address, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine introduced his budget proposal for the creation of the H2Ohio Rivers Initiative, a comprehensive approach to improve the quality and the health of Ohio’s rivers, which are critical for wildlife habitat, infrastructure, drinking water, economic development, and recreation.
“This proposed initiative will work to preserve and protect the health of Ohio’s rivers and the land and wildlife habitats alongside them by cleaning up polluted waterways, strategically removing dams, and restoring rivers across the state to their former glory,” said Governor DeWine.
If approved by the Ohio General Assembly, the effort would combine the expertise and resources of the Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to take coordinated action to improve the quality of the waters in Ohio’s rivers.
Through this initiative, H2Ohio plans to:
- Address the issue of rising salinity in Ohio’s rivers and streams;
- Implement a river restoration program for large river tributaries and preserve the rivers in Ohio that are already in good health;
- Remove specific dams on rivers and major tributaries to enhance water quality, fish passage, and migration;
- Enhance Ohio’s litter cleanup program to put more focus on our rivers and streams to remove not just trash, but large objects like cars, tires, and appliances from our water; and
- Remediate waters impacted by acid mine drainage to enhance their ability to support aquatic life.
ODNR would increase the monitoring of aquatic species, including fish, freshwater mussels, and macroinvertebrates. The diversity of these animals can be a critical indicator of water quality and river and stream health.
Additionally, ODA would begin to work on expanding the state/federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, commonly called CREP.
CREP is a land conservation program that gives incentives to farmers and landowners who take marginal agricultural land and agree to preserve those properties in a matter that restores wildlife habitat, prevents nutrient runoff, and enhances water quality.
Around 110,000 acres of land in the Lake Erie and Scioto watersheds have been preserved as part of CREP by creating grasslands, wetlands, and forested riparian buffers along the waterways.
As part of the proposed H2Ohio Rivers Initiative, ODA will bring this program to the Great Miami Watershed in western Ohio to encourage farmers to take part in CREP – which will support ongoing water quality initiatives in that area.