The Ohio Lake Erie Commission has scheduled two public meetings to seek comments on the latest version of its plan to address pollution and related problems in the lake.
A draft of the Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan 2013 has been completed, including proposals the commission and its member agencies plan to adopt over the next several years to improve conditions in the lake and its basin.
Meetings will be held Aug. 6 at the Maumee Public Library and Aug. 8 at the Bay Village Public Library. Both meetings will be from 6:30-8 p.m.
The commission will also hold a webinar on Aug. 7 from 2-3:30 p.m.
The plan is organized into 12 priority areas, including 10 from the plan prepared in 2008 and two additional areas: jobs and the economy and the management of dredged sentiment. Others are non-point source pollution, invasive species, water withdrawals, toxic pollutants, habitat and species, coastal health, and areas of concern.
Agencies applying for grants are expected to indicate which objective in the plan their work will address.
In 1987, the United States and Canada committed to restoring the most degraded portions of the Great Lakes basin. Working through the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes states and provinces designated 43 areas of concern, including 26 in United States waters and five in binational waterways. AOCs were identified based on 14 types of impairment, reflecting human uses - such as eating fish, drinking water and swimming - and ecological impacts, such as loss of diversity in aquatic life and destruction of fish and wildlife habitat.
The most common sources of impairment are contaminated sediments, sewage treatment plant discharges and combined sewer overflows, nonpoint source runoff, runoff from hazardous waste sites and habitat degradation
In Ohio, all or portions of the Maumee, Black, Cuyahoga, and Ashtabula rivers are areas of concern cited in the report.
Those major tributaries to Lake Erie suffer from various impairments as a result of past industrial use along their banks and other human activities. Locally-based committees have worked with the Ohio EPA to develop Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) that define the sources and causes of impairment.
Since the 1990’s, dissolved reactive phosphorus entering the lake from the Maumee and Sandusky Rivers has increased dramatically and is now higher than any other time during a 35-year monitoring period, according to the plan, and those run-off issues have sped up the implementation of management practices and research. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is also revising the draft Nutrient Reduction Strategy Framework for Ohio Waters for submittal to the U.S. EPA.
The plan also sees potential in the use of material dredged from harbors.
“Variability in soil types in the Ohio watersheds draining into Lake Erie, from the tight clay soils in northwest Ohio to the higher sand content soils in northeast Ohio, results in wide ranging potential for beneficial reuses of dredged material. Ohio continues to support strategies that address both beneficial reuse and land-based sediment reduction efforts,” the plan says.
It expresses support for a Toledo Harbor pilot project for managing dredged material and the development of standards for in-water reuse of sediment.
Another idea worth pursuing, the plan says, is establishing a Center of Innovation for Dredged Material in Northwest Ohio to support research in the reuse of dredged material.