COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio has released the framework being used to reduce phosphorous entering Lake Erie under the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement (Collaborative), which Ohio, Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario signed in June 2015.
That agreement had a goal of reducing phosphorous loading to Lake Erie by 20 percent in 2020 and 40 percent by 2025. This framework gives Ohio a jumpstart on U.S. EPA’s and Environment and Climate Change Canada’s deadline to develop a state Domestic Action Plan (DAP) required under the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), by February 2018. “Our real key to this initiative is going to be verification of results,” said Karl Gephardt, executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission and deputy director of Ohio EPA Water Resources.
“It’s one thing to say we’ve put 3,000 acres in cover crops out in the watershed; it is another thing to say those 3,000 acres have had an X percent improvement in water quality.”
There is a need to prove those results, and there are ways to do that, he said. One is to expand the amount of edge-of-field monitoring to determine what is coming off various farms within the watershed. Ohio has water quality monitoring stations throughout the watersheds, and those can provide a good baseline in some. “We can start tracking where the practices are being implemented, and what the water quality monitoring is saying is actually happening,” Gephardt explained.
“Then we can say that we are having an effect. We aren’t pointing our fingers at any one source, but we have to start verifying results.”
Soil testing is something the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) have increased and will continue to increase, and producers are doing a good job with that, said Kirk Hines, Ohio SWCD.
“Other things we’ve done are the soil erosion practices to reduce the volume of runoff, which reduces that phosphorous load into the lake,” he said. ‘We will continue those practices.
“Depending on the department that is involved, there are some priorities in the basin; looking at the nutrient loading, most of the practices we’ve been doing to continue the reduction we’ve been getting, we need to do basin-wide.”
Even with those goals of 20 and 40 percent reductions by 2020 and 2025 respectively, the harmful algal blooms won’t be eliminated – but they’ll be reduced to a level that has been successful, Hines said.
Finally, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission will be coordinating the implementation of the framework with Ohio EPA and Ohio departments of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Each agency will be accountable for implementing its respective areas of authority included in the framework to meet the overall 40 percent reduction.
“The U.S. EPA is coordinating with each of the states on what each of the states will be doing on nutrient reduction,” said Sandra Kosek-Sills, the environmental specialist with the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. “So, Ohio’s framework under the collaborative is going to be integrated into that reduction plan process ahead of
what would be required.”