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Ohio Releases Blueprint to Curb Toxic Algae – But Plan Falls Short

Ohio Environmental Council, May 25, 2016

Columbus, OH – Today Governor Kasich’s administration released its plan for curbing Lake Erie’s toxic algae, the plan includes a number of positive proposals but as drafted, it falls short of the actions needed to fully solve this problem. Specifically, the Collaborative Implementation Plan includes an encouraging new program to verify implementation of conservation practices, but overall it lacks effective solutions to reduce runoff pollution from big agriculture, which scientists recognize as the primary source of pollution feeding the lake’s algae.

“Certainly the plan demonstrates a strong commitment to reduce toxic algae, but in order to ensure its success, further action is necessary ,” said Adam Rissien, the Ohio Environmental Council’s Clean Water Director. “Real progress requires policies for widespread adoption of conservation practices and proper applications of fertilizer and manure.”
Governor Kasich led the singing of a collaborative agreement last summer with Michigan and Ontario to reduce phosphorus, which fuels toxic algae, from entering the lake by 40 percent by 2025. In order to meet the 40 percent reduction goal, each state and province has or is developing implementation plans. Ohio’s plan, unfortunately, emphasizes mostly the same approaches that have failed to curb pollution from corporate agriculture.
“We cannot afford to keep doing the same things and expecting different results,” said Molly Flanagan, Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President of Policy. “Ohio needs policies that translate into real action to ensure Lake Erie can provide safe drinking water and continue supporting its $12.9 billion dollar recreation and tourism industry.”
In March, teams of scientists issued results from a comprehensive study and  determined random acts of conservation will not meet the 40 percent phosphorus reduction goal. A more effective approach requires  testing the soil to measure what is already in place and avoiding excess applications of manure and fertilizer. It also means taking a close look at each field to find pollution risks and match the right practice for each situation. These are the essential elements to a pollution prevention plan.
Last year heavy rainstorms sent huge amounts of polluted runoff from corporate farms into western Lake Erie causing the largest algal bloom this century. News stories were filled with reports of green slime further damaging Lake Erie’s reputation and driving away anglers fishing for walleye and perch.
“The value of Lake Erie’s recreational fishery to Ohio’s anglers and the state’s economy shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Ohio Conservation Federation President, Matt Misicka. “Walleye fishing on Lake Erie with family and friends, frying the day’s catch at the park campground, and swapping fish tales into the night is a unique part of Ohio’s angling heritage. It is a shame to see that heritage diminished by toxic algae when the causes are known and preventive measures are in our grasp,” Misicka explained.
Last year’s stretch of toxic algae spread all the way past Cleveland, which has some local business concerned.
“At Great Lakes Brewing Company, we rely on safe drinking water to produce our award winning lagers and ales.  We’re pleased our state government has committed to reduce nutrient loading and to stem toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie,” said Saul Kliorys, Great Lakes Brewing Company Sustainability Manager. “Now we also need pragmatic solutions to achieve those goals.”