Another article stirs Lake Erie users of the “sea of concern” and that something has to be done to curtail the imminent and reoccurring toxic bloom. Purportedly, the problem was even bad enough within the past few months to impact a water treatment plant near Toledo.
According to some of the water quality experts monitoring Lake Erie, the algae bloom issue has gotten worse over the past 20 years. And if we don’t turn this thing around, we could see more dead fish and less tourism in our area. That will hurt us all, not just environmentally, but also economically, from southeastern Michigan, across northern Ohio, and all the way over to the northwestern edge of New York.
From the information being shared at the meetings I’ve been attending lately, the main contributor to our problem is the phosphorous that’s being delivered to the western basin of Lake Erie, more than 40 percent just from the Maumee and Detroit Rivers. These nutrients are mostly attributed to sediments from agricultural activities, manure, wastewater, open lake dumping, storm water issues, lawn fertilizers, and failing septic systems. So, let’s take a quick look at the size of the area here in the targeted area of Ohio we’re talking about.
The Maumee River is about 137 miles long, from Fort Wayne, Ind., and flowing into Lake Erie in Toledo, draining an area of approximately 6,354 square miles. The Portage River is 41.5 miles long, draining an area of 626 square miles. Just west of us is the 133 mile long Sandusky River, flowing from Leesville in Crawford County into the head waters of Sandusky Bay, draining an area of 1,420 square miles. That’s a total of 8,400 square miles or approximately 5.4 million acres that are requiring our immediate attention, if we are going to address this resource concern!
If you look at those numbers, it makes it sound like an insurmountable task is ahead of us. It’s not my intent to paint an even darker cloud, but in reality there is no “magic wand” to make all our problems go away instantly. However, there are a lot of possibilities, a great deal of optimism, and a promising amount of expectations.
In fact, just knowing that the western basin of Lake Erie will typically “turn over” several times throughout the year, it gives us the opportunity to make significant changes in the way we manage our land to remedy the problem. Like some have suggested, if the nutrient sources are reduced, the level of algae should also be reduced fairly quickly. At this point we believe that would be the case.
Just this past week, I have participated in three meetings with various agencies to discuss conservation programs and initiatives designed to reduce soil erosion, tie up nutrients, and restore and protect the water quality of our streams, rivers and Lake Erie. Because of the humongous challenge before us, we recognize the combined effort that is needed to be most effective in our ability to identify, assess, and most importantly, implement the corrective conservation measures, if we are to achieve appreciable success.
Locally-led conservation has always been based on the principle that the people who live, work, recreate, and raise their families in their locale are the ones best suited to make the right decisions, restoring and preserving the health of their community. It is this “coalition” of watershed partners from all walks of life who come together to seek for and require that steps be taken and improvements be made to ensure a quality of life.
If you’re not already, get involved with one of the conservation groups or a committee. Stay informed. And be the best steward of your land and water resources that you possibly can be.
It’s our obligation to see that we all continue to “do the right thing” not only for our environmental health today, but for the benefit of those who will follow after us, be it 10 or 50 years from now.