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Lake Erie Improvement Association addresses algal blooms Featured

Larry Fletcher for LESI West, Senator Randy Gardner and Joan Van Offeren of LESI East

On Friday, Dec. 13, the Lake Erie Improvement Association held a conference about sustaining the economics of Lake Erie at the Catawba Island Club. The Lake Erie Improvement Association is a voice for the tourists, boaters, fishermen, businesses, governments, property owners and anyone impacted economically by the health and well-being of the lake. Right now, the issue on everyone’s minds regarding Lake Erie is the presence of the blue green algae blooms.

One of the speakers at the conference was Dr. Jeff Reutter Director of Ohio Sea Grant and the Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory. Stone Laboratory is the oldest freshwater biological field station in the United States which continuously conducts research to solve the most pressing problems facing the Great Lakes. 80% of Lake Erie’s water comes from the upper Great Lakes, 10% comes from direct precipitation and 10% comes from the Lake Erie tributaries; the tributaries are where Dr. Reutter said the problem lies.

The other four Great Lakes are surrounded by forested area and Lake Erie is the only Great Lake that is surrounded by agricultural land. Because of the land usage, more sediment, more nutrients and more pesticides are being deposited into Lake Erie than the other Great Lakes. Dr. Reutter explained that nutrients in the field turn into pollution in the lake.

The other lakes are also too deep and cold to support walleye and other sport fish. Dr. Reutter explained the 50 and 2 rule: Lake Superior has 50% of the water and 2% of the fish and Lake Erie has 2% of the water and 50% of the fish. Not only is the algae affecting the health of the lake and all of the species living in it, the algae is also affecting the economic impact of people living around the lake.

Economically, the area is affected in many ways because of the algae blooms. Tourism can suffer because people cannot swim in the lake if the algae is at an unsafe point. The area can get a stigma from the negativity related with the algae that could trick people into not wanting to visit the area. From an agricultural standpoint farmers don’t want to lose the products they are putting on their fields; this in turn means they are losing money. Also, this summer in Carroll Township the water supply was compromised because of the algae amounts in the drinking water which shut down their whole operation. The cost from this is passed onto the water consumer, who isn’t necessarily the culprit.

The Lake Erie Improvement Association has recommendations on how to reduce algae:

• A request for an executive order that provides for federal coordination and oversight of the Lake Erie watershed algae problem including a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the western and central basin of Lake Erie and the Maumee and Detroit Rivers.
• A state by state and Ontario ban on the application of fertilizers and manure on frozen ground. (Lake Erie research and other reports in 2013 show that over 40% of the phosphorus enters Lake Erie from March through May)
• An alternative to open lake disposal of one million cubic yards of sediments (the most continuously dredged in the Great Lakes) from the Toledo shipping channel to be determined and funded.
• The Detroit wastewater plant, the single largest wastewater plant in the U.S. that contributes 5% of the total phosphorus load and 13% of the dissolved reactive phosphorus load to Lake Erie, get a grant for assessing economically viable ways of reducing the phosphorus load to Lake Erie.
• The storm water rules and regulations be updated to factor in climate change.
• Source water protection plans for all Lake Erie watershed public intakes be created and implemented.
• Combined sewer system upgrades get funding.

Also speaking at the conference were Director of the Lake Erie Commission Gail Hesse, Ohio Representative Chris Redfern, Commissioner of the Department of Environment in the City of Toledo Tim Murphy, Ottawa County Sanitary Engineer Kelly Frey, Ohio Senator Randy Gardner, Oday Salim from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Larry Fletcher from Lake Erie Shores & Islands.

Fletcher presented Senator Gardner with an award for his continuous commitment to Lake Erie issues and also congratulated him on the development of the Lake Erie Caucus which was also released Friday.

The next Lake Erie Improvement Association meeting will be held Jan. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Center located on State Route 53 in Port Clinton. For more information on the Lake Erie Improvement Association visit www.lakeerieimprovement.org.

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