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Taking Action on Lake Erie

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Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Taking Action on Lake Erie

Lake Erie Nutrient Issue

In recent years, the Western Lake Erie Basin has been experiencing the reappearance of significant algal blooms, some of which are harmful to aquatic life and can affect the drinking water of nearby residents.

In Lake Erie, several factors contribute to algal blooms.  Nutrient-rich water from wastewater treatment plants,  farm fields and fertilized lawns, the effects of invasive species, and the warm, shallow waters of the lake are some of the known contributors, but there may be others that aren’t quite understood yet. Though the causes are complex, the State of Michigan is committed to improving Lake Erie, ensuring safe water and supporting healthy ecosystems.

Michigan’s Domestic Action Plan

To reduce the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen entering Lake Erie, Michigan released the Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan (DAP) developed by the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development; Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; and Natural Resources. Michigan’s plan sets the road map for reducing phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025.

Michigan’s Adaptive Management Plan

Michigan's Adaptive Management Plan to Reduce Phosphorus Loading Into Lake Erie - released 12/17/2021

Webinar Notice: A public webinar will be held on Monday February 7, 2022, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. EST to provide an overview and updates on the adaptive management framework developed by the MDARD, EGLE, and MDNR agencies and will highlight how they will take action and track progress. This is an opportunity for the general public, agency partners or anyone who wants to know what Michigan is doing to reduce nutrient loading to Lake Erie. To register for the webinar, visit

The Michigan Lake Erie DAP calls for the state to implement an “active” adaptive management approach at two levels: the Michigan-specific level and the binational Lake Erie basin level. Michigan is following the adaptive management framework as defined by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This involves “…exploring alternative ways to meet management objectives, predicting the outcomes of alternatives based on the current state of knowledge, implementing one or more of these alternatives, monitoring to learn about the impacts of management actions, and then using the results to update knowledge and adjust management actions.”

It is an approach intended to achieve objectives in systems that are responsive to management actions where there is uncertainty. It is useful in the management of natural systems because the detailed workings of such systems may not be fully known, but many policy and program alternatives exist.

Efforts are underway to reduce nutrient loads to Lake Erie and clean up the algae blooms at the federal level, within the state and Canadian provincial jurisdictions by

  • Determining uncertainties,
  • Defining the actions to take,
  • Implementing and then evaluating the results of those actions.

Each water year that passes offers an opportunity to learn more about system response and adjust actions if and where necessary.

Public Comment on the draft Michigan Adaptive Management Plan

EGLE’s Water Resources Division (WRD), accepted written comments between February 24, 2020, and June 19, 2020, on the draft Michigan Lake Erie Adaptive Management Plan. The Adaptive Management Plan is a companion document to the 2018 Michigan Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan.  The Lake Erie Adaptive Management Plan describes the status of water quality in Michigan’s portion of the Lake Erie Basin and includes a list of planning and implementation actions that the state will take to achieve nutrient reduction targets set through the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Annex 4 (Nutrients) Subcommittee process.

In these webinar recordings, EGLE and MDARD staff highlight what the Domestic Action Plan and Adaptive Management are and how they will be used by state to take action and track progress. This is opportunity for stakeholders or anyone who wants to know what Michigan is doing to reduce nutrient loading to Lake Erie.

News and Updates:

What Michigan is doing:

  • Reducing phosphorus loads from four key wastewater treatment plants.
  • Reducing phosphorus loads from nonpoint, agriculture sources in the River Raisin Watershed, and Michigan’s portion of the Maumee River Watershed.
  • Forming collaborative partnerships to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers.
  • Reaching out to the public and farmers to promote understanding of good conservation practices.
  • Promoting wetland restoration and other land management initiatives.
Michigan’s Western Lake Erie Basin Priority Watershed

In May 2015, nutrient reduction targets were established for the River Raisin Watershed and Michigan’s portion of the Maumee River Watershed. Focusing on these areas does not mean that the state will not implement nutrient correction in other areas of Michigan that drain to the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB).  However, the nutrients removed from other WLEB watersheds will be in addition to the nutrients removed in these priority watersheds.

River Raisin and Michigan portion of Maumee River watersheds

What Can You Do Around the House:

  • Don’t dump grass clippings or other landscaping debris into any water body
  • Never throw anything into a storm drain
  • Service your septic system regularly - get SepticSmart
  • Dispose of pet waste in the trash or your toilet
  • Volunteer with a local conservation group or watershed council
  • Consider non-toxic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides alternatives

What Can You Do Around the Farm:

Additional Information:

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