The International Joint Commission, the federal agency that represents the State Department in discussions with Canada, has called on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to push for Lake Erie to be declared impaired, saying that volunteer incentives for farmers are not working.
The agency has no power over state decisions, but they become another voice calling for impairment status. Mr. Kasich, are you listening to these voices?
Mayor-elect Wade Kapszukiewicz has stated that he will seek an impairment status. Toledo City Council, Oregon City Council, the Lucas County commissioners have all passed resolutions supporting the designation.
An algae bloom from Lake Erie moves into a boat basin in September.
It became painfully clear this summer, when algae blooms turned the Maumee River a sickly shade of green, that phosphorous levels have not been reduced since a toxic bloom fouled Toledo’s drinking water in 2014. In August, 66,000 fish kills in the western Lake Erie watershed were attributed to manure spills near tributaries in Williams, Allen, and Hardin counties.
There are many farmers who are working to reduce the damage being done to the lake and rivers by fertilizer and manure. But there are others who, obviously, need stricter guidelines with penalties attached.
It has been baffling that the Kasich administration continues to believe that Lake Erie can be healed through voluntary compliance from the farmers. The state is nowhere close to being on pace to achieve its goal of a 40-percent reduction of phosphorous loading by 2025. It argues that an impairment status would lead to heavy-handed regulations and lawsuits that could slow down the progress.
But the answer to that argument is that there is no progress. Lake Erie is becoming a national punchline because of photos of the region’s slime-filled waterways on the Internet. And the algae continues to be an annual menace for residents’ water supply.
In discussing this summer’s fish kills, Lana Pollack, the IJC’s U.S. co-chair, told The Blade: “What does it mean when you see that kind of tragedy in the lakes? It means [voluntary incentives] are not working.” No, they are not, and it is time that Mr. Kasich admits that and joins the chorus of people calling for the impairment of Lake Erie.
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