Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to target algal blooms in Lake Erie

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WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 4, 2014 -- The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will provide almost $12 million to federal and state agencies to target harmful algal blooms (HABs) in western Lake Erie, better preserving the environment and protecting public health as a result.

The funding builds upon the GLRI's ongoing efforts to reduce algal blooms and comes in light of the recent water crisis in the city of Toledo, Ohio, that occurred in early August (see "Toledo water resources contaminated by toxin from algae in Lake Erie").

The funding will be made available to Ohio, Michigan and Indiana state agencies, as well as to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The new FY 2014 funding will be used to:

  • Expand monitoring and forecasting to help drinking water treatment plant operators and beach managers minimize health impacts associated with HABs
  • Increase incentives for farmers in western Lake Erie watersheds to reduce phosphorus runoff that contributes to HABs
  • Improve measurement of phosphorus loads in Lake Erie tributaries

Toledo issued a "Do Not Drink" order for almost 500,000 people in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan when a drinking water treatment plant was adversely impacted by Microcystin, a toxin produced in connection with HAB outbreaks on Lake Erie. In addition to generating toxins that pose risks to human health, HABs create low oxygen "dead zones" and harm shoreline economies.

On August 13, EPA Regional Administrator, Susan Hedman, convened a meeting of federal and state agencies to identify opportunities for collaboration to minimize HAB-related risks in the western Lake Erie Basin. The GLRI funding targets immediate needs identified during that meeting. The group will continue to focus resources on this issue in FY 2015 and beyond.

The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. GLRI resources are used to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long-term goals which includes eliminating harmful algal blooms.

Under the initial GLRI Action Plan, GLRI resources doubled the acreage enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in the western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay watersheds where nutrient runoff contributes to HABs. Under the new GLRI Action Plan, which covers 2015-2019, projects to reduce nutrient loads from these agricultural watersheds will continue. Watershed management and green infrastructure projects to reduce untreated runoff from urban watersheds will also continue.

See also:

"Increasing global algal bloom toxicity tied to nutrient enrichment, climate change"

"Column ties Toledo water crisis to population growth"

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