The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Saving Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the 12th largest body of fresh water in the world, but it is the most used fresh water lake for recreation, fishing, and tourism.

In addition to providing 11 million people with drinking water, Lake Erie generates about $1.4 billion in fishing and recreational activities.

While the Great Lakes contains one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, Lake Erie produces more fish than all of the other Great Lakes together.

State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon) and other officials believe Erie’s contribution to the economy is being jeopardized because of pollution. Grand Lake St. Mary and Buckeye Lake are already virtually dead, killed by invasive algae, which feeds off phosphorus from fertilizers and animal feces.

In 2011, when a record breaking algal bloom developed in Lake Erie’s western basin, the Ohio Department of Health issued advisories at four nearby beaches. The advisories, which recommended against swimming and wading, were issued in late August and extended into October. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources still has the advisory listed for the beach at Maumee Bay State Park on the park’s website.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concludes that open-lake placement of dredged material does not contribute to the development of harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

The Ohio EPA is still evaluating the study’s findings, but it remains firm that open lake dumping is not environmentally sound.

“Highlighted by the crisis in Toledo and the overall health of Lake Erie, action is needed to move us beyond the business-as-usual approach of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers applying unacceptable standards to justify disposing of massive quantities of nutrient-laden sediments in our lake,” said Dina Pierce, Ohio EPA Northwest District media coordinator.

“We need to focus on finding an approach that ensures our ports remain open and accessible and builds on current actions to protect Lake Erie,” she said.

Sandy Bihn, executive director Lake Erie Waterkeeper, Inc., said the debate between the Corps and the EPA has been going on for decades. Last spring, the Ohio EPA refused to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permission to dispose of dredgings from Cleveland into the open waters of Lake Erie; which created a push for alternatives.

“Toledo has been fighting this going to back to the 80s. The Ohio EPA has typically said, ‘No open lake’ and then they ban it, and [EPA and Corps] fight, and nothing gets done. That happens over and over again,” said Bihn, who believes dredging plays a role in providing phosphorus that feeds invasive algae, even if it’s not the biggest role.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concludes that open-lake placement of dredged material does not contribute to the development of harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

The externally conducted study was performed by engineering consulting firms Ecology and Environment and Limno Tech, at the request of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District office and Engineer Research Development Center. Support was furnished by: Heidelberg University; the University of Toledo; and the University of Wisconsin–Stout. Data was contributed by: the National Ocean Service; the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, and United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The study, “Influence of Open Lake Placement of Dredged Material on Western Lake Erie Basin Harmful Algal Blooms,” was conducted over 18 months and involved field sampling, laboratory analysis, and lake eco-system modeling. Extensive water quality monitoring was conducted throughout six months of the 2013 dredging operation. The study was released in August.

While findings concluded that open-lake placement of dredged material is not a source of bio-available phosphorus contributing to harmful algal blooms, it did find that the Maumee River is the dominant source of bio-available phosphorus contributing to the blooms.

 

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