The Beautiful River – The Ohio

Photo credit Susan Griffin Ward

In 1669, French explorer La Salle called the Ohio “la belle rivière” or “the beautiful river.” It is still beautiful. And worth protecting.

In 1948, the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) was formed. A key part of that compact agreement was the signatories’ pledge for “… faithful cooperation in the control of future pollution in and abatement of existing pollution from the rivers, streams and water in the Ohio River Basin…”

Keep Protecting the Beautiful River

A few years ago, ORSANCO proposed to end their pollution control standards program. KWA opposed this because we believe that setting baseline standards for the river is essential. We also believe the process of developing standards that all states can agree upon is important. Pollution control standards are a critical part of the overall protection of the river as a source of our drinking water, wildlife habitat, and a safe environment for people to fish, swim, and boat.

In 2018, there were several comment periods. KWA joined our friends at the National Wildlife Federation and other organizations in the river basin to voice our concerns (KWA ORSANCO PCS Comment Letter- April 2019).  Many of our members and supporters in groups all across the basin submitted comments as well.

In the October 2018 ORSANCO meeting, the Commission deferred action. Public comment certainly prompted this decision to reconsider. The committee worked on an alternative approach that would preserve the river standards, but does allow for states to vary from them. The final action on this was taken in the June 6, 2019 ORSANCO meeting when they adopted a new process that retains the standards, but allows for states to vary their own permit limits with notice to ORSANCO. All permit limits should protect the designated uses of the river, such as recreation and drinking water source water. You can read the full revision document here.

Nearly 100 people attended the Feb 14, 2019 ORSANCO meeting

What KWA Will Do

  • Stay engaged with ORSANCO as a founding member of the Water Organizations Advisory Committee and attending Commission meetings. We will continue to be a voice for the river and the people and wildlife that rely on it now and in the future.
  • Speak out if states do not follow the standards by reviewing notices and using our expertise to challenge technical assumptions where they are not protective of the river.
  • Keep our supporters informed through our website, regular emails, newsletter, and social media.
  • Celebrate the river! KWA helps waterways groups organize to make change, plans cleanups, celebrates the river through art and music, and speaks to river users at every opportunity about the value of this beautiful river.

What You Can Do

  • Join us! As a member and follower of the KWA Facebook page and our weekly emails (sign up here), from public radio (WFPL, WKMS, and Ohio Valley ReSource), and on ORSANCO’s website.
  • Share your stories of what the Ohio River means to you with KWA on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. These stories provide us with specific information and inspire us when we are making our comments.
  • Take personal actions to reduce your water and energy use. None of us can solve the whole problem, but each of us can do something to help the river. The Beargrass Creek Alliance has a pledge form that gives you ideas and a way to commit to them. Plan a river cleanup – we at KWA can help! Start or join a waterways group – KWA helps these groups form and grow!
  • Enjoy the river! Whether you just like to have a bourbon and watch it flow by or you swim it or fish or boat or whatever – get out there and enjoy this beautiful river that we all love.

Thanks for caring about Kentucky waterways!

updated 12/13/2019