OREGON, OHIO—(ENEWSPF)–October 20, 2014 — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman today announced the award of four Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling over $8.6 million to Ohio, Michigan and Indiana state agencies to protect public health by targeting harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie. Hedman was joined by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur and grant recipients at the Lake Erie Center in Oregon, Ohio, for the announcement.
“In the wake of the Toledo-area drinking water ban, EPA quickly convened a meeting with state and federal agencies to identify their most immediate funding needs to reduce pollutants that contribute to harmful algae in western Lake Erie,” Hedman said. “EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants will fund critical projects in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to expand ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie.”
In early August, EPA met with state and federal agencies to identify opportunities for collaboration to reduce harmful algal blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. On September 3, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who chairs the federal interagency task force which oversees the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, announced that $12 million would be made available to state and federal agencies for priority projects identified during the August meeting. Today’s grants fund projects that will be implemented by Ohio, Michigan and Indiana agencies. EPA will soon announce additional funding for projects that will be implemented by federal agencies.
“This summer’s water crisis underscores the need to approach the issue of harmful algae blooms at all levels – local, state, and federal,” Brown said. “And while local experts and community leaders are guiding our response, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding will play a critical role in reducing phosphorus runoff and giving farmers, producers, and stakeholders the tools they need to meet the challenges ahead. While we know this issue isn’t going to improve unless we act together, today’s announcement of additional federal funding is an important step in making progress.”
“We must be guided by good science as we tackle the hard issues around reducing nutrient runoff on this massive, tri-state watershed,” Kaptur said. “I am especially pleased to see resources directed toward sampling and monitoring in tributaries leading to Lake Erie. We need a better picture of where conservation strategies and infrastructure improvements can be most effectively used to stop runoff and protect our waters.”
These Great Lake Restoration Initiative grants to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (approximately $5.9 million), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (over $1.5 million), the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (approximately $807,000) and the Indiana Department of Agriculture (approximately $360,000) will fund eight projects. The grants will be used to:
• Provide technical assistance and incentives to farmers in western Lake Erie watersheds to reduce phosphorus runoff that contributes to harmful algal blooms.
• Improve measurement of phosphorus loads in Lake Erie tributaries.
“The importance of taking a regional approach to address the impact of harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie is imperative, and we are grateful to U.S. EPA for the additional funding,” said Ohio DNR Director James Zehringer. “These funds greatly complement Ohio’s strategic approach to improving water quality and protecting Lake Erie, one of our greatest natural resources.”
“We will continue to work with our state and federal partners to improve our nutrient management efforts in Ohio to ensure the health of our waterways,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. “These federal funds will enable Ohio EPA to measure the success of agricultural conservation practices in Ohio by expanding water quality monitoring throughout the Maumee River watershed.”
“Michigan applauds EPA for providing funding for solutions that are proven effective in our state for reducing agriculture-related impacts to the western Lake Erie watershed. Protecting and preserving Michigan’s water resources is one of Governor Snyder’s top priorities and of critical importance to the state’s food and agriculture community,” said Jamie Clover Adams, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Although Michigan only represents 15 percent of the land base in the western Lake Erie basin, we will continue our solid commitment of working in partnership with our farmers, conservation districts and others in the western Lake Erie basin through programs like the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.”
“We are pleased to see EPA, especially those at Region 5, continuing to partner with the states to build upon proactive, voluntary conservation efforts and successes within the Great Lakes basin,” said Jordan Seger, director of soil conservation for the Indiana Department of Agriculture. “We applaud EPA Region 5 for their swift action after the Toledo drinking water ban, immediately assembling the states together to identify solutions, and promptly acting on the states’ recommendations. EPA’s investment in Lake Erie is a real demonstration of how challenges can be addressed in direct partnership with stakeholders.”
In early August, the city of 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 generated by a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie. In addition to generating toxins that pose risks to human health, harmful algal blooms contribute to low-oxygen “dead zones” in the deeper waters of Lake Erie and harm shoreline economies.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources are used to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources have been used to double the acreage enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in the western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay watersheds where nutrient runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms. The recently released GLRI Action Plan lays out a strategy for increased federal efforts to reduce agricultural and urban runoff in these three priority watersheds during 2015-19.Information about the GLRI is available at: http://www.glri.us/.
More information about the GLRI grants is available at: http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/glri.