Leaders to talk how to split $12M for lake Mich, Ind., Ohio get anti-algae grant

State and federal dignitaries are gathering Monday in Toledo to discuss how Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana will split nearly $12 million the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will make available to combat western Lake Erie algae through better farming techniques.

The special allocation is in response to the algae-induced water crisis Toledo endured the first weekend of August, when the metro area’s 500,000 water customers scrambled for bottled water because toxins from heavy algae led to city tap water being deemed unsafe to drink.

The U.S. EPA is drawing nearly $12 million from its Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a pool of money for Great Lakes programs that is subject to the annual whims of Congress but usually is about $300 million.

Known by its abbreviation, the GLRI was created by the White House in 2009 in response to President Obama’s campaign pledge a year earlier to provide $5 billion in new funding for the lakes before he left office. That pledge was a step toward addressing a 2005 inventory by the Bush administration that identified $23 billion in improvements thought necessary to get the Great Lakes to optimal health.

U.S. EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman, who also serves as the agency’s Great Lakes National Program manager in Chicago, is to be joined at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center at 2 p.m. with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer, and Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler, as well as James Johnson, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development environmental stewardship director, and Jordan Seger, Indiana Department of Agriculture soil conservation director.

Ohio will get more than $7 million of the $12 million, including $5.6 million for the Ohio DNR to use for farmland enhancements and $1.45 for the Ohio EPA to use for stream monitoring, Mr. Butler said while making a presentation in The Blade editorial offices on Tuesday with Mr. Zehringer and David Daniels, Ohio Department of Agriculture director.

While most of the work will be within the Maumee River watershed, the Ohio EPA said it has targeted four sub-watersheds to use the money most efficiently. Those are spread across northwest Ohio, and are based on general water-quality assessments done once every 10 years, he said.

“Toledo was an eye-opener of an experience,” Mr. Zehringer said of the water crisis.

Much of the Ohio DNR’s new money will be dedicated to physical improvements, such as control structures beneath farm tiles that help hold back water like dams.

The state DNR also will use money to test 40,000 acres of farm soil, and to help plant cover crops on 60,000 acres of farmland. Cover crops help absorb excess water and algae-inducing phosphorus, while also putting plant nutrients into the soil as they decay.

 

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