76 percent of Ohio voters support federal Great Lakes restoration efforts
06-26-2014 // Jordan Lubetkin
Solid majorities of Ohio voters from across political lines want stronger rules to curb farm field runoff, support federal investments to restore the Great Lakes, and agree that the Clean Water Act should cover wetlands and small streams, according to a new poll released today by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, and Ohio Environmental Council.
“Ohio voters care about clean water and the Great Lakes,” said Paul Fallon, president of the Columbus-based Fallon Research & Communications, Inc., which conducted the survey. “Our polling indicates that protecting Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes unites Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Ohioans across the political spectrum support state and federal policies that keep waterways clean.”
“In a time of intense partisanship at both the state and national levels, such consistent support across party lines for the Clean Water Act and Great Lakes restoration funding is noteworthy,” said John Russonello, partner at Belden Russonello Strategists, LLC. “Clean water unites people. Ohioans care about the Great Lakes. They support the Clean Water Act. And they are even willing to back stronger regulation to protect the lakes from pollution and farm field run-off.”
The survey of 805 general election voters was conducted by Fallon Research & Communications, Inc., of Columbus, Ohio, between June 10 and June 13. Questions were written by Belden Russonello Strategists LLC in Washington, D.C. Highlights of the poll include:
Over six in ten (62%) voters across Ohio believe the federal Clean Water Act should cover wetlands and small streams in order “to protect our health and important habitats from dangerous pollution,” while fewer than three in ten (29%) take the position that the Clean Water Act should not cover wetlands and small streams because “it will hurt farmers and businesses who will be forced to comply with unnecessary regulations.” There is broad bipartisan support for the Clean Water Act. When presented with arguments on both sides, those who say that the Clean Water Act should cover wetlands and small streams, include majorities of Democrats (77%) and Independents (62%) and a plurality of Republicans (45%).
Two thirds (66%) of Ohio voters support the state enacting “stronger regulations to prevent run-off pollution from farms that ends up in the state’s rivers and streams.” Only one-quarter (25%) oppose the state enacting new regulations on farm field run-off. The proportion of voters who strongly support this policy (43%) is nearly three times of those who strongly oppose (15%). Majorities of Republicans (51%), Democrats (75%) and Independents (72%) in support of stronger state regulations for clean water.
Looking at regional water issues, a large majority of Ohio voters (76%) supports the federal government spending $300 million a year to restore the health of the Great Lakes. Fewer than one in five (18%) want to reduce the amount the federal government spends on the program that funds cleaning up toxic waste and bacteria, reducing run-off pollution from cities and farms, and protecting an rebuilding wetlands. Support is high among all political groups: 69% of Republicans, 77% of Independents, and 82% of Democrats.
Nearly half (46%) of all Ohio voters have heard something about the invasive fish called Asian Carp. After a brief description of the problem of the fish entering the Great Lakes, over nine in 10 voters express concern, with 57% who say they are “very concerned” if the fish got into Lake Erie. Political party once again makes little difference in concern, with 55% of Republicans 64% of Democrats and 50% of Independents saying they would be very concerned if Asian Carp got into Lake Erie.
Ohio citizens support stronger regulations to prevent run-off from farms into rivers, streams, and eventually the Great Lakes. In recent years, Ohio citizens have witnessed the resurgence of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and inland lakes like Grand Lake St. Marys. Algal blooms are toxic to people, pets and wildlife. An historic harmful algal bloom that blanketed western Lake Erie in 2011 covered more than 2,000 square miles and could be seen in photos from outer space.
“Algal blooms in Lake Erie, caused in large part from farm field run-off, have prevented people from safely swimming, boating, or fishing in the lake—even endangering drinking water,” said Kristy Meyer, Managing Director of Agricultural and Clean Water Programs, Ohio Environmental Council. “It’s not a surprise that people in our state would want to prevent these blooms, but it is encouraging to see such high levels of support for new preventative regulations.”
One such set of regulations is the Clean Water Act, which has been instrumental in restoring the nation’s waters since its passage in 1972. Currently some members of Congress are considering taking action to prevent federal agencies from using the Clean Water Act to protect some wetlands and streams. In Ohio, over 5 million people get their drinking water from these threatened small streams. Throughout the eight-state region, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, over 30 million people get some or all of their drinking water from small streams or headwaters that could be put at risk by removing these Clean Water Act protections.
“Ohioans understand the importance of Clean Water Act protections,” said Marc Smith, policy director, National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office. “The Clean Water Act has helped protect the places in Ohio where we hunt, fish and recreate. In addition, the Clean Water Act has ensured the safety of our drinking water for more than 40 years. There’s simply nothing good to be gained by undermining clean water protections that are benefitting people, wildlife and our outdoor heritage.”
The new poll comes as Congress is considering funding levels for Great Lakes restoration efforts. Over the last five years, the U.S. Congress and Obama Administration have invested more than $1.6 billion to clean up toxic pollution, combat invasive species like Asian carp, prevent urban and farm field runoff, and restore fish and wildlife habitat and wetlands.
Federally supported restoration projects in Ohio have:
Removed contaminated sediments and restored habitat along the Ashtabula River, creating jobs, improving water quality and making the river suitable again for maritime commerce, fishing and recreational boating.
Restored one mile of Big Creek in Cleveland, providing a home for fish and wildlife, curtailing flooding and reducing pollution and sediments flowing into the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.
Preserved 171-acres of wetland in the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Toledo, providing a home for wildlife, filtering nutrient runoff flowing towards Lake Erie, and restoring the natural flow of water across the landscape.
“We’re seeing great restoration results in Ohio and across the region, but we have more work to do,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Maintaining federal restoration investments, upholding Clean Water Act protections, and getting a handle on agricultural run-off are key steps to keeping the Great Lakes healthy. We need to remain vigilant on all of these fronts. We can’t afford to take one step forward while we’re taking two steps backward.”