Sens. Sherrod Brown, Rob Portman seek database to help fight harmful algal blooms

CLEVELAND, Ohio – While Lake Erie braces for another late summer coating of green slime from phosphorus-provoked harmful algal blooms, or HABs, Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman introduced legislation Thursday to help determine the causes of the blooms and ways to combat them.

The Great Lakes and Fresh Water Algal Blooms Information Act would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to create a database of the research and information by various agencies on the HABs, and corrective actions needed to eliminate them. Rep. Bob Latta, a Republican from Bluffton, Ohio, introduced companion legislation in the House on Thursday.

“Ohio is home to world-class scientists and experts who are committed to keeping consumers safe,” said Brown in a press release. “This database would help ensure the best and most up-to-date research and information on algal blooms is available to the public. We must be vigilant in our work to protect Lake Erie and our drinking water supply.”

On Wednesday, Portman and Brown also introduced The Safe and Secure Drinking Water Act to determine if Ohio drinking water is safe for consumption. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo introduced similar legislation in the House. The legislation directs theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency to publish a health advisory and report what level of microcystin, a liver toxin, in the HABs is safe for Ohioans to consume.

The World Health Organization established the microcystin standard of 1 part per billion. That standard was used to shut off Toledo’s drinking water supply for three days on Aug. 2.

U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy would be required to issue a progress report within 120 days on the treatment and testing of water. It would determine the national standard for public officials and water plant operators.

Too early for steelhead: Brisk north winds have put a chill on the late summer fishing. The falling temperatures might be putting some river anglers into a steelheading mood, but don’t expect an early arrival of cold weather and good northeast Ohio steelhead trout fishing.

“We’re not seeing a lot of steelhead trout gathering around the Lake Erie river mouths just yet,” said aquatic biologist Mike Durkalec of the Cleveland Metroparks. “In fact, with Lake Erie a little cooler than normal at this time of year, it appears the steelhead trout runs this fall will be a little later than usual.”

The exceptionally cold winter translated into cooler summer waters. Water temperatures off Cleveland this week are 70 degrees, according to the near-shore marine forecast, a few degrees cooler than normal. With warmer waters flowing from the rivers, there is little incentive for the big trout to leave Lake Erie and its plentiful baitfish.

“It’s the same around the Great Lakes,” said Durkalec. “The expected runs of steelhead trout and salmon up the Lake Michigan streams like the St. Joe are behind schedule this month.”

Local anglers can begin to get ready for the silver bullets, though. The 21st annual Steelhead Expo will fill the Rocky River Nature Center, 24000 Valley Pkwy., North Olmsted on Oct. 4 with steelhead seminars, fishing tackle and outdoor gear. The free expo hosted by the Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders and Cleveland Metroparks is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Seminars range from advanced float fishing for steelhead with Durkalec, Dan Pribanic of Chagrin River outfitters on Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead, River Basics with Les Ober and Gearing Up for Steelhead with Wael Drdir. Vendors include the Rodmakers Shop, Backpackers Shop and Chagrin River Outfitters.


Photo caption: Ohio Sea Grant biologist Tory Gabriel uses a plankton net to measure the intensity of the blue-green algae in the water around the Bass Islands of Lake Erie. The net gathers algae suspended in the water column during a top-to-bottom sampling to establish levels of microcystin, or harmful algal blooms. D’Arcy Egan, The Plain Dealer

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