More federal funding on the way to combat algae in lake

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced $12 million in new federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) last week to combat algal blooms and improve water quality. The funds will help expand monitoring and forecasting of Lake Erie, while increasing incentives for farmers in the watershed to implement conservation practices that reduce runoff.

“This new funding is one more tool to combat the threat posed to Lake Erie,” Brown said. “The federal government – specifically the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – is committed to tackling this problem.”

Brown is the co-sponsor of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act, which would protect the Great Lakes – and the millions of jobs they support – from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species like harmful algal blooms by fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes.

GLRI funding has helped support the control of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality. In May, Congress passed a critical water infrastructure bill that includes an amendment introduced by Brown that would help prevent the invasion of Asian carp into the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins.

Last week’s funding comes after Brown secured $3 million in funding from Natural Resources Conservation Service to help farmers enroll in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides resources for producers to implement conservation practices, including preventive measures to reduce phosphorus runoff and prevent pollution in the Lake Erie Watershed. Just one week after Brown’s announcement on Aug. 19, NRCS received more than 450 applications to plant cover crops on 86,000 acres. Because of increased participation in EQIP, NRCS released additional funding to meet the need.

Brown is committed to ensuring that all Ohioans have access to clean, safe, and affordable water. He helped establish the Regional Conservation Partnership Program that will provide up to $1.2 billion nationwide for farmers to implement conservation measures, including those that could reduce runoff into Lake Erie. The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative, a partnership among Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, has advanced to the next stage of consideration for a $20 million federal award – $13 million of which would go to Ohio.

Brown has also announced plans to reintroduce the Clean Water Affordability Act, which would direct additional funding to communities in Ohio to eliminate combined sewer overflows, which are a contributing factor in harmful algal blooms. Brown first introduced this legislation with former Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) in 2008 and worked with local officials across Ohio to fine-tune the bill. Brown will reintroduce the bill this fall.


Photo caption: Plumes of algae stretch into Lake Erie, Sunday, August 3, 2014 near a shoreline at Maumee Bay State Park, east of Toledo, Ohio. Around 47,000 residents in northern Wood County are without clean water for a second day as officials await lab results to confirm or deny the toxicity of the Toledo’s water source which supplies nearly half a million residents. Microcystin, a toxic molecule known to cause cause nausea and liver damage, was found in water source samples during testing at a water-treatment plant in Toledo early Saturday morning.

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