On Monday, Aug. 27, in the Sutton Center, Port Clinton, the International Joint Commission (IJC) hosted a public meeting, providing information about its Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority and hearing from the public about concerns regarding nutrient pollution and harmful algal blooms.
The IJC was created in1909 by the Boundary Waters Treaty for the purpose of helping Canada and the U.S. protect their shared waters. It is an independent body of experts working to develop consensus findings and recommendations for their governments. All IJC members are committed to serving without bias. The IJC has direct authority to regulate water flow in the Great Lakes, and serves in an advisory capacity on water quality. Since 2002 it has been a strong advocate for action to prevent Asian carp form entering the Great Lakes.
The meeting was attended by concerned citizens from around Ottawa county and by researchers and environmentalists from across Ohio, Michigan and Ontario. The Port Clinton meeting was one of eight being held across the region. David Dempsey, Policy Advisor to the IJC, gave a brief presentation and led a pro-active discussion about our lake and its watershed and the challenges ahead.
Much of the discussion centered on the phosphorus overload and the algal bloom. Though this year’s algal bloom has not yet reached the extent of last year’s bloom, the conditions for another extensive bloom still exist. Dempsey pointed out that after Lake Erie’s infamous crisis in the 70’s, the commitment of resources and effort restored the lake to a healthy balance within a decade. When monitoring was stopped and regulations were relaxed, Lake Erie again began to decline.
The IJC is committed to examining the broad range of scientific and social/economic issues related to excess algae growth in Lake Erie. Contributing factors include weather conditions, water temperature, agricultural runoff, failed wastewater management, invasive species, open-lake dumping of dredged sediment, thermal impact of power plants, and residual deposits. Economic issues include the impact on tourism and fishing and increased water treatment costs.
There are some significant causes for optimism. Many farmers, like Ottawa County Commissioner and farmer Jim Sass, who was in attendance, have been working cooperatively to develop, maintain and incorporate improved agricultural practices. Also, it is expected that there will soon be a new Great Lakes Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, which could give impetus to positive changes.
The IJC plans to have its recommendations from the LEEP for the U.S. and Canadian governments by next fall. These findings will have relevance across the Great Lakes, throughout the country, and around the world.
For more information, or with your comments or photos, visit www.ijc.org.