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MDARD Partners with Alliance for the Great Lakes, MSU Institute of Water Research, and LimnoTech to Deploy Nearly $5 million in Water Quality Monitoring in the Western Lake Erie Basin

Water quality research and data are fundamental to achieving environmental outcomes in the WLEB

LANSING Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Dr. Tim Boring today announced plans to partner with the Alliance for the Great Lakes for $4.86 million in funding over the next five years to the Alliance for the Great Lakes to expand water quality monitoring in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). The research effort utilizes expertise at Michigan State University's Institute of Water Research and LimnoTech, while leveraging $600,000 in funding from the Erb Family Foundation. This significant increase in research and monitoring will aid the state's strategy in developing a plan to combat harmful algal blooms in the WLEB.

"Improving our understanding of nutrient losses and transport in the WLEB is essential to accelerating progress on nutrient loading reductions," said Boring. "Our department has recognized the need for improved water quality monitoring in WLEB. We know that more holistic farm management focusing on soil health and regenerative agriculture principles can be expected to improve nutrient losses. Through the State of Michigan's Domestic Action Plan adaptive management approach of continuous assessment and improvement, the scientific outcomes of this work improve our ability to make meaningful progress toward water quality improvements."

"We are excited to partner with MDARD on this effort and applaud the leadership of Director Boring who has continually emphasized the importance of expanding monitoring and data collection to help guide conservation decision making," said Tom Zimnicki, Alliance for the Great Lakes Agriculture and Restoration Policy Director.

Harmful algal blooms occur when colonies of algae grow out of control. Some produce dangerous toxins which can have harmful effects on people and wildlife, but even non-toxic blooms can hurt the environment. The algal blooms need sunlight, slow-moving water, and nutrients to grow. Phosphorus pollution from human activity can make the problem worse, leading to blooms occurring more often.

Monitoring will begin later this spring in five priority HUC-12 sub-watersheds: Lime Creek, Stony Creek (South Branch River Raisin), Headwaters of the Saline River, Nile Ditch, and the S.S. LaPointe Drain. These subwatersheds were selected for more focused and accelerated activities including finer-scale water quality monitoring, completing agricultural inventories, prioritized BMP implementation, and assessing the costs associated with full implementation to achieve a 40 percent total phosphorus reduction goal.  In-stream data collection will include stream flow, total phosphorus and soluble reactive phosphorus, turbidity, and total suspended solids. These gauge stations will be combined with soil moisture, precipitation, and tile outlet sensors deployed through the watershed to better understand the fate and transport of nutrients in the WLEB watershed.

Understanding, tracking, and predicting nutrient loads from the WLEB watershed is difficult due to the complex drivers of nutrient loss within sub-watersheds in the WLEB including variable weather, cropping systems, farm management, nutrient cycling. By increasing monitoring capacity in the WLEB at smaller sub-watershed scales, with an emphasis on deploying higher spatial density monitoring instrumentation, this research will improve the understanding of the impact of various drivers on nutrient transport and enable improved prioritization of conservation and land management practices to meet phosphorus reduction commitments set for Michigan s portion of the WLEB.

Visit the Taking Action on Lake Erie website to learn more about steps you can take to help reduce pollution and protect Michigan s natural resources.


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