Plan to move from local councils to Columbus-based board halted
COLUMBUS — State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) today announced that efforts to abolish each of the state’s 14 Wild, Scenic, or Recreational River Area Advisory Councils and consolidate them into a single statewide council have successfully been thwarted. The Jefferson lawmaker contributed to the efforts to prevent the consolidation plan in order to protect the Ashtabula River and Conneaut Creek Advisory Councils.
“Our local council members are actively working on projects that are crucial to promoting healthy waterways in our community. As such, I saw it as my duty to support them and vigorously oppose the efforts to abolish local waterway councils,” said Patterson. “This is an important win for the ninety-ninth district, as both the Ashtabula River and Conneaut Creek Advisory Councils will be able to continue their tremendous work that benefits us all.”
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) earlier this year floated the proposal to consolidate 14 separate local councils that meet in the communities they serve into one Columbus-based council comprised of 14 members — one from each of the designated wild, scenic and recreational rivers.
Opponents of the proposal, including Patterson, maintained that oversight of the various rivers would have been significantly reduced if only one person would be left to represent each river. The new set-up would have also created a severe logistical hurdle for some members of the council forced to travel to Columbus from the far reaches of the state.
The proposal was shelved in May after lawmakers heard the concerns from members of several councils during the committee process. However, after several months of inaction, the proposal resurfaced after the November election during committee hearings on HB 471, legislation that included many of the formal recommendations from the Sunset Review Committee.
“I expressed my sincere concerns about the initiative to several other members of the legislature,” said Patterson. “As a result of our efforts – which included the staunch opposition from our local council members – the provision was stripped again just before the full legislature voted on HB 471. I am proud of our work on this issue and look forward to seeing continued success from the advisory councils that oversee the Ashtabula River and Conneaut Creeks.”
HB 471, passed by both the Ohio House and Senate in the waning hours of the lame duck session, renews all 14 current advisory councils until December 31, 2020. Gov. Kasich signed the bill into law on Monday; it will now go into effect in roughly 90 days