State Issue 3 on the November 4 ballot in Ohio has been given little attention during this tumultuous election season. No one seems to be focusing on what is possibly one of the most important issues the voters will decide next month.
This proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution would secure private property rights of Ohio citizens in relation to the use of ground water or the use of the waters of lakes or watercourses that flow through or are adjacent to their land.
This seems like a pretty inocuous, potentially superfluous, amendment. Historically, property owner rights to water were held in common law. However, given the bend to judicial activism in all levels of the judicial branch, “common” law isn’t common nor is it an adequate protection of fundamental, nigh unalienable, rights.
Therefore, the voters of Ohio have before them an opportunity to protect one of these rights through the adoption of state Issue 3. This language explicitly spells out the water rights of Ohio citizens, and prevents such rights from being impaired or limited by any other provision of the state constitution. This is an important proviso, as it trumps the “home rule” authority which Ohio’s local governments can exercise.
Language in this amendment would subordinate such property rights in the ground water to “the public welfare”, which indicates that such rights can be abrogated, but not without similar eminent domain action and compensatory payment for the loss of such property rights by the owner as currently exists for the land over which the ground water is located (already secured by Article 1, section 19 of the Ohio Constitution).
The protection of these fundamental rights to the productive use and valuation of a basic resource such as ground water is a proactive step to ensure that as Ohio’s government enters into future compacts or agreements with other Great Lakes states or as part of intergovernmental treaties with neighboring countries over water rights, Ohio property owner rights will be protected in our Constitution.
The Institute for Principled Policy encourages Ohio voters to support their water rights, and vote “YES” on State Issue 3.