Western Lake Erie Basin Project
Lake Erie Harmful Algal Blooms
The University of Toledo and Ohio Sea Grant
recently sponsored two free workshops addressing the issue of
harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
Harmful algal blooms (HABs, excessive growths of
toxin-producing algae that form in Lake Erie during the summer,
adversely impact aquatic life and human health as well as
recreation, tourism, fishing, and property values. Triggered
primarily by excess phosphorus, HABs in Lake Erie have reached
crisis proportions in recent years. Experts from science,
government and law addressed best practices and legal tools for
reducing phosphorus entering Lake Erie and its tributaries from
key sources in Ohio.
Presentations given at the workshops are available at:
Lake Erie is part of the Great Lakes System which contains 20 percent of all
the freshwater in the world.
Numerous Federal and State reports have identified Lake Erie as impaired due to
excessive loadings of sediment and nutrients. Long-term water quality monitoring
has identified the Maumee River as being the largest single contributor of nonpoint
source pollution to the Lake.
Reports and modeling done in the basin by U.S. Geological Survey, USDA
Agricultural Research Service, Heidelberg College, and NRCS have identified the
erosion control practices of conservation tillage and conservation buffers as
effective in reducing both soil erosion and sediment transport from the
watershed. Nutrient management, manure management plans, wetland restorations,
and controlled drainage have been shown to effectively reduce nutrient transport
from the watershed to the lake. Current USDA Farm Bill programs are a proven
means of facilitating installation of these practices by farmers.
NRCS has developed a plan to use Rapid Resource Assessments, Area Wide Planning,
and acceleration of USDA Farm Bill programs to address the resource concerns for
the Western Basin of Lake Erie, and the contributing watersheds including the
Maumee, the Portage, and the Ottawa Rivers as well as other smaller direct
discharge streams between Toledo and Sandusky Bay. The project area encompasses
4.2 million acres in the Maumee River watershed and another 714,000 acres in the
Ottawa River, Portage River, and the Lake Erie direct tributaries combined, for
a total project area of 4,914,000 acres.
Rapid Resource Assessments in each of the eight different 8-digit hydrologic
units in the project area will be combined into a basin wide plan. This data
will be used through an Adaptive Management approach to fine tune and guide the
acceleration of the USDA Farm Bill programs.
The plan estimates the acres of filter strips, riparian buffers, grassed
waterways, conservation tillage and nutrient management as well as the number of
Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (manure management), waste storage
structures, and pasture systems that will be needed to address resource
This 10-year plan for accelerating the participation in USDA Farm Bill programs
will involve financial assistance to farmers in the form of cost sharing and
practice payments, and technical assistance to assist farmers in planning and
applying these practices.
Progress will be measured by a combination of means, including the NRCS Progress
Reporting System (PRS), annual tracking of land use/cover changes, conservation
tillage transects, and water quality monitoring data.
The following documents require Adobe Acrobat.
Lake Erie Basin Water Resources Protection Plan (PDF; 672 KB)
Lake Erie Basin Partnership Strategic Plan (PDF; 1 MB)
Assistant State Conservationist for Natural Resources
200 N. High St., Room 522
Columbus, OH 43215
Telephone: (614) 255-2502