New ODA Director Changes Course of Watersheds in Distress Rulemaking

By: Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program, Ohio State University

Less than a week into the administration of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a new approach to watersheds in distress has emerged. Director Dorothy Pelanda assumed the helm of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in days ODA had changed the status of the proposed watersheds in distress rules in the Register of Ohio to “To Be Refiled.”

The change in status of the proposed rules signals that ODA plans to change its earlier proposal. The Register of Ohio, which is where state agencies post rules and proposed rules, defines a proposed rule with a “To Be Refiled” status as one “that has been temporarily removed from JCARR consideration by the rule-filing agency.” Until a sponsoring agency acts, the proposed rule remains in the “To Be Refiled” status and off of the agenda of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR).

JCARR was set to consider the controversial proposal at its Jan. 22, 2019 meeting. However, the change in status of the proposed rules means that JCARR will not consider them until ODA takes further action. ODA may revise the proposal, refile as-is, take no action, or withdraw the proposal.

The Kasich administration sought to expand the number of watersheds designated as “in distress,” which would impose additional regulations and restrictions on farmers who apply manure and nutrients to the land. Further, the proposal would have required impacted farmers to submit a nutrient management plan to ODA, and ODA would have to audit at least 5% of those plans. ODA’s Soil and Water Conversation Division held a hearing on Nov. 21, and a number of stakeholders attended to provide comments. A summary report of the hearing is available here. Currently, the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed is the only watershed in Ohio subject to the additional requirements.


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