Shared from the 2018-03-25 Sandusky Register eEdition

Algal blooms are not going away

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Lake Erie experienced the third worst algal bloom over the last twenty years in 2017.

It has faced many water quality issues over the past 100 years. It was the “Poster Child” for the “Clean Water Act” in 1969. Point sources were the main issues impacting water quality in the 1960-1970s with known locations and quantities of discharges.

Municipal and industrial sewage treatment plants were identified and specifically targeted for improvements, which reduced total phosphorus by 75 percent in the 1970-1980’s bringing the total phosphorus load to targeted amount of 11,000 metric tons.

Tourism and the sport fishery flourished with the clean water.

Point Sources now account for less than 9 percent of the total phosphorus. Combined sanitary and storm water overflows now account for less than 1 percent of the total phosphorus load per the 2016 Ohio EPA Mass Balance Study.

By the mid 1990’s, problems began to reappear with toxin producing blue-green algal blooms and have been recurring nearly every year since.

The Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force convened in January 2007 with representative governmental agencies, scientists, agricultural programs, wastewater treatment plant personnel and expertise from many others.

A report included agenda for monitoring, research and potential programs for establishing improved agricultural practices. Following the findings, State of Ohio — Directors of Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency convened the Directors’ Agricultural Nutrients and Water Quality Working Group in August 2011 to identify and implement agricultural practices to reduce algal blooms in Lake Erie and inland lakes relying predominately on 4R nutrient stewardship (right fertilizer source, at right rate, at right time with the right placement).

In 2012, the Ohio EPA, coordinating with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Department of Agriculture, developed “Ohio’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy” for all of the “Waters of the State of Ohio”, which was completed in December of 2016.

Concurrently, the Ohio EPA, Ohio Lake Erie Commission, ODA and ODNR reconvened the Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force as a Phase II effort which issued a final report in 2013 providing a recommendation of a 40 percent reduction of total phosphorus.

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 2012 Annex 4 dealing with nutrient issues proposed the 40 percent reduction of total phosphorus by 2025, which was adopted by the governors of Ohio, Michigan and premier of Ontario as part of the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement.

To achieve this goal, each of the five states within the United States (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) and the Canadian province (Ontario) within the Lake Erie Basin have prepared their own Domestic Action Plans.

An interim goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020 is a critical point of concern. An adaptive approach has been made an important part of this program. This has been provided allow changes to bring about compliance to the stated goals within the agreement.

The effort has been further joined by the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian Provinces creating the Lake Erie Nutrient Targets (LENT) Working Group and its development of a ten-step plan to meet the targeted goal of 40 percent reductions.

The landscapes draining into Lake Erie have undergone immense changes in land uses, vegetative cover, development and changes in agricultural practices coupled with climate change issues with heavy rainfall events and warming have created major issues.

Agricultural practices for livestock as well as row crops have also undergone immense changes. Much of what is now some of the most productive agricultural land in North America was once the “Great Black Swamp”, which has now been nearly completely drained.

The wetlands that made up this immense area and provided clear water to Lake Erie through the river watersheds making up this area have essentially been eliminated.

The efforts to date have mostly been within the ODA with inputs from OH EPA and ODNR with various stakeholders in the agricultural community predominately controlling the bureaucratic process involved with regulating activities.

So far, everything has been voluntary and no progress has been made. The 2017 Algae Bloom was ranked at third worst in history as it appeared late with the extremely hot September. If the hot weather would have appeared earlier, the bloom could have been much worse.

“A White Paper: Summary of Findings and Strategies to Move toward a 40 percent Phosphorus Reductions,” authored by a team of nine scientists, with inputs from many other scientists, on dealing with the issues. It provides the most viable actions to be made to begin the correction of the algae bloom situation.

To date the efforts have been like a basketball game. The ball is being passed around and dribbled, but shots are not being attempted. It does not appear that there is anyone willing to attempt any changes.

It doesn’t appear that activity is in good faith with a lack of direction and no real action being taken. It is apparent that changes are not wanted and when made will require time to enact.

We are running out of time.

There is clearly a need for direct and immediate action.

Clearly, the row crop farmers utilizing commercial fertilizers are not the main problem. They do not want to lose nutrients that they are paying for. The livestock operations on the other hand are growing in numbers and size with their regulations being in need of updating?

Dealing with animal waste is a costly operation. Currently information on livestock populations appear to be classified information and not readily available. Why?

Immediate actions needed:

n Soil-test-informed utilizing application rates for nutrients that follow Tri State Fertility Guidelines for all applications of commercial fertilizer, manure and or bio solids.

n Insertion of commercial fertilizer, manure and or bio solids into soil profile by injection, knifing, banding, in furrow with seed and or immediate soil incorporation after application.

n Increase efforts to control soil erosion and reduce sediment loading.

n Utilize drainage water management to keep nutrients in the fields and develop management strategies to maximize benefits.

n All livestock operations must be registered with permitting being required per current guidelines.

We cannot afford to continue with the current lack of corrective actions.

Please contact the Governor’s Office, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Legislators and United States Legislators to inform them that we must have action now.

• Izzak Walton League of America, National Great Lakes Committee/ Chair

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