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Taking Action on Lake Erie
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks with help from the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program
- Request a confidential farm visit by a MAEAP technician
- Reference the EGLE Nonpoint Source Program’s Best Management Practices Manual
- Executive Directive 2019-14: Implementing the Domestic Action Plan for Lake Erie to Decrease Phosphorous by 40% by 2025
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s U.S. Action Plan for Lake Erie
- Ohio’s Domestic Action Plan
- Indiana’s Domestic Action Plan for Western Lake Erie Basin
- Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan: Partnering on Achieving Phosphorus Loading Reductions to Lake Erie from Canadian Sources
- Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie Phosphorus Reduction Domestic Action Plan
- Michigan’s January 2019 Progress Update - Taking action on Lake Erie
- Western Lake Erie Basin Collaborative Agreement
- ErieStat: A Blue Accounting initiative tracking progress toward a healthier Lake Erie
- Moving Goalposts: The Challenge of Lake Erie Algal Blooms: In this four-part blog series, an agricultural newbie attempts to explain one of the Great Lakes' biggest challenges.
- VIDEO: Investigating the effectiveness of controlled drainage at three farms
- Nutrients Annex of the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
- City of Monroe
- Great Lakes Commission
- Great Lakes Water Authority
- Lenawee Conservation District
- Hillsdale Conservation District
- Michigan State University Extension
- Monroe Conservation District
- River Raisin Institute
- River Raisin Watershed Council
- Southeast Michigan Council of Governments
- Washtenaw Conservation District
- Wayne County Downriver Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Wayne County Conservation District
- Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority