Michigan Plans to Clean Up Lake Erie

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Michigan Plans to Clean Up Lake Erie

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and departmental leaders have unveiled Michigan’s final adaptive management plan serving as the companion document to the previously released Domestic Action Plan (DAP) addressing the causes driving harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

“In Michigan, we are defined by our Great Lakes, and we have to work together to protect these precious natural resources for future generations and our economy,” said Governor Whitmer. “We know that harmful algal blooms are caused by a number of sources in Michigan’s portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin and beyond. While it will be challenging to reach our 40 percent nutrient reduction goal, I know we can get it done. Together, we will make the investments we need to reduce algal blooms and continue working to protect our Great Lakes.”

The adaptive management plan informs both state-led and partner supported projects to help reduce the amount of nutrients from fertilizer, wastewater and erosion entering Lake Erie from an array of sources as Michigan works to reach its 2025 goal of 40 percent reduction of both total phosphorus and soluble reactive phosphorus, which fuels algae growth in the lake.

The plan outlines Michigan’s three main focus areas: reducing loads from specific outlets and general run-off areas (point and non-point sources); wetland restoration, green stormwater infrastructure, and other land conservation practices in both the rural and urban areas; and engagement with partners and the public.

By reducing nutrient loads such as phosphorus from farmland and urban sources into Lake Erie, the plan will help decrease the events causing harmful algal blooms. Harmful algal blooms are overgrowths of algae which can produce toxins and can affect water quality.

“Michigan has already reached its target of a 20 percent phosphorus load reduction by 2020, but we have a way to go yet to meet our overall 40 percent goal,” said Gary McDowell, director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). “By partnering with our sister agencies, local conservation districts and continuing our outreach with farmers, I’m confident we will make a quantifiable improvement to water quality in the state.”

The plan, jointly created by a senior management working group from MDARD and the departments of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), and Natural Resources (DNR), is a learning-based management approach. Michigan’s adaptive management framework will work in two ways: evaluate the outcomes of deliberate, measured actions taken to reduce phosphorous; and develop and implement scientifically driven research projects to address gaps and uncertainties in existing phosphorus reduction methods and technologies.

The departments will be hosting a public webinar February 7th from 1:00- 2:30 p.m. To register for the webinar, visit https://bit.ly/3oEq6Lt. This webinar will highlight what the Adaptive Management Plan is and how it will be used to take action and track progress. This is opportunity for anyone who wants to know what Michigan is doing to reduce nutrient loading to Lake Erie.

The departments are also working on several joint project initiatives in the Western Lake Erie Basin including the United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, helping Michigan’s agricultural producers implement conservation practices. They are also encouraging farmers to participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, a voluntary effort to provide technical assistance to farmers so they can reduce the loss of nutrients from their farm fields.

The adaptive management plan also supports watershed management planning with an emphasis on completing agricultural inventories. EGLE and MDARD are focusing these agricultural inventories in high priority sub-basins in the Bean Creek Watershed (a sub-watershed to the Maumee River Watershed), the S.S. LaPointe Drain Watershed, and the River Raisin Watershed. The agricultural inventory process will collect data to locate and prioritize sites with the potential to address nutrient runoff and that will have a positive impact on water quality.

“Reducing nutrient loads from nonpoint sources to achieve the 40 percent reduction goal by 2025 has proven to be very challenging,” EGLE Director Liesl Clark said. “The agricultural inventories in the priority Western Lake Erie Watersheds will provide a more focused approach to identifying the best options for reducing nutrient losses at the field-scale within a watershed.”

The plan also focuses on a pilot agriculture wetland restoration effort to reduce phosphorous runoff to Lake Erie.

“Lake Erie provides a highly important recreational resource for fishing and boating,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “We look forward to implementing landscape actions, such as wetland restoration, to help address the factors contributing to the harmful algal blooms.”

Implementation of the adaptive management plan is being led by the three-department Domestic Action Plan Team. The team is working through a two-year work plan process, and they will also be seeking annual input and feedback from an external, science-based advisory group that is expected to include both rural and urban stakeholder sectors in a balanced manner.

For more information on what Michigan is doing in the Western Lake Erie Basin or to view the Adaptive Management Plan, visit Michigan.gov/LakeErieDAP.

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