Growing interest in algae issue draws large turnout to forecast meeting

NOAA Researchers Predict Possibly Toxic Algae Bloom on Lake Erie

Ohio's governor is calling for regulations on thousands of farms as part of a new strategy to combat the fertilizer and manure that flows into streams and feeds persistent toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.

"We can't even react to the specific regulations he's proposing; we haven't seen them", said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. Riedel said more funding is needed and open-lake disposal of dredge materials has only "stirred the pot" of potential algal blooms.

But just because there's algae on the lake doesn't mean people should stay away, Stumpf said. Researchers hope to someday be able to predict toxicity in advance, as well, but the science for that has not yet been developed.

"NOAA's Lake Erie forecast affirms the worries of many in northwestern OH that there will be a significant toxic algae bloom this year", Bucher said. "Low precipitation levels have been the only thing in recent history that has kept the harmful algal blooms manageable for Lake Erie communities. We'll see a little more", he said.

NOAA's forecast followed by a day Ohio Gov. John Kasich's announcement of an executive order created to reduce nutrient runoff from agriculture operations that send phosphorous to the lake.

Scientists say this year's bloom is expected to be a 6 on the severity index of 10, which is based on a bloom's biomass or the number of harmful algae over a sustained period, according to a press release. "The proposed menu of possible rules and regulations are good agricultural policy (nutrient management planning), yet farmers, like all citizens, resist being told how they must conduct their affairs".

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"Considering the increased conservation and corresponding reduction in nutrient discharges that have already been achieved throughout the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB), it would seem obvious that farmers would prefer the carrot approach to implement the best practices for each farm, versus a one-size-fits-all stick approach under the Kasich order", she said.

Since 2008, the Lake Erie algae severity index score has been in the "mild" range only twice.

The Auglaize County Township Association members heard on Wednesday that Kasich has signed an executive order asking the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to consider all or portions of the watersheds as "watersheds in distress".

New this year was an address by W. Russell Callender, assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service, who said toxin-producing harmful algal blooms have grown in importance to Congress.

Phosphorus runoff measured at the Maumee River sampling station near Waterville and other sites operated by Heidelberg is almost as high as a year ago, she said.

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