(This story has been updated to reflect the cancellation of the public information meeting at Adrian College on Monday, March 16 and the addition of a second webinar.)
Lake Erie is plagued by algal blooms that harm aquatic life and threaten drinking water supplies, but Michigan is updating and modernizing an action plan to reduce such blooms. Public input into part of that plan is being taken via email, snail mail, and two webinars.
The growth of the algal blooms often is fed by phosphorus and nitrogen entering the lake from a number of sources, such as wastewater treatment plant discharges, and farm fields. Those nutrients concentrate in the lake's shallow western basin, feeding the blooms that typically peak in the hot summer months.
To help address the problem, Michigan released a Domestic Action Plan road map in February of 2018 designed to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. The plan was developed by a team from the state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE); Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD); and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In conjunction with the DAP, Michigan this month announced an Adaptive Management Plan that provides a more structured way to assess progress and adjust strategies to better meet the 40-percent reduction goal. The multi-agency Lake Erie DAP team is developing joint annual progress reports and two-year work plans, along with five-year DAP updates to keep stakeholders engaged in the work ahead.
Before the adaptive management plan is formally adopted, though, EGLE, MDARD, and DNR wants public input into this approach. There are three ways to comment before the April 3 5 p.m. deadline:
"While we have made some progress, such as reducing phosphorus loads from wastewater treatment plants, there is a lot more work that needs to be done," EGLE Director Liesl Clark said. "Reaching our goal of a healthy Lake Erie is going to take some time. Using the Adaptive Management Plan, we can evaluate our progress along the way and adjust as we go to make sure the Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan is completed properly and protects public health and the environment."
The adaptive management approach is expected to maximize environmental and economic benefits, while addressing the nutrient issues in Michigan's portion of the Lake Erie Basin. (A related problem needs addressing in the Central Basin, where a growing dead zone at the bottom of the lake in the summer and fall, caused by decaying algae, is depleting oxygen that organisms need to survive.)
Every day there is more to learn, and that information will be used to continually improve best management practices for a healthier lake and the many communities, farmers, and businesses are connected to the lake.
To keep up to date on the DAP, the adaptive management process, and other efforts toward a healthier Lake Erie or to receive a copy of the draft Adaptive Management Plan, go to the Taking Action on Lake Erie website.
Photo credit: Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development