The Lake Erie Foundation is an organization dedicated to the health of Lake Erie and the community that depends on water quality. Our stated mission is to “Create and maintain a healthy Lake Erie now and forever as defined by drinkable water, recreational contact, and edible fish.”
LEF has been and continues to be supportive of the research efforts implemented to address the nutrient issues in Lake Erie. We also are supportive of the substantial revenue spent to improve wastewater treatment, reduction of combined sewer overflows, and improvements in drinking water facilities that allow Toledo and other cities to have safe drinking water.
In a guest essay last Saturday, the director of the Ohio EPA, Craig Butler, stated that impaired status for Lake Erie is not a “magic wand.” We agree. It is a long, painstaking process that requires all states to develop a plan to identify sources and reduce nutrient loading. But, it is an enforceable plan that has consequences if participants do not achieve goals in specific times. That is something we do not have. We empathize with Mr. Butler, as the majority of loading to western Lake Erie is from non-point sources over which he has little control.
An impaired status designation would require identification of those sources and reduction in loading, which may result in lawsuits as affected parties defend current practices. But at least we would achieve a defined and enforceable plan.
We will continue to support the state of Ohio in its research and findings. We have been collaborating with all entities to find solutions and implementing practices to reverse the current trends. To expedite harmful algae reductions, the Lake Erie Foundation has five recommendations for Ohio:
1. Ohio should pick the top five nutrient options that deliver the greatest reductions at the lowest cost with immediate implementation.
2. Ohio should require all new and expanding mid and large-size animal feeding operations to apply manure to meet the soil phosphorous agronomic/crop need rate. Also, require existing mid and large-size animal feeding operations to meet the soil phosphorous agronomic/crop need rate within three years. Commercial fertilizer uses this agronomic/crop need rate, but manure has a higher allowance.
3. Ohio, along with other public and private sectors, should invest in technology to find economically viable options for manure reuse.
4. Ohio and other states should have an annual report, based on sources and amounts, that includes how much of the 40 percent nutrient reduction is achieved each year.
5. Ohio should state what additional steps will be taken if the Lake Erie nutrient reduction target of one-half of the 40 percent nutrient reduction goal by 2020 is not met. Additional steps should include a western Lake Erie Total Maximum Daily Load.
We look forward to working with the state of Ohio for a healthier, economically viable Lake Erie.
Sandy Bihn is the Lake Erie Foundation Executive Director/Waterkeeper.
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