Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015OH445B

Policy Tools for Reducing Nutrient Loads and Combating Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie: An Inventory and Assessment

Institute: Ohio
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,455 Total Non-Federal Funds: $24,455

Principal Investigators: John Hoornbeek

Abstract: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have again become common in Lake Erie, with a record-breaking bloom in 2011 that stretched from the Western Lake Erie Basin through the lake’s Central Basin east of Cleveland. In 2014, the City of Toledo was forced to issue a drinking ban for its public water system after toxins from an algal bloom were detected in post-treatment water. These blooms pose a threat to public health and ecological systems (Zinegone et al, 2000). The OSG, International Joint Commission (IJC), Ohio Phosphorus Task Force, and the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) focus on excess nutrients from agricultural sources as the primary cause of HABs – particularly phosphorus. Other sources of phosphorus include sewage treatment plants, Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), and faulty septic tanks. There are currently multiple public agencies in Ohio, at the federal and international levels seeking to address the problem of nutrient enrichment and HABs in Lake Erie. We are seeking to inform the policy conversation around addressing the nutrient enrichment issue in Lake Erie by conducting policy research that focuses on better understanding the policy tools available in Ohio to reduce nutrient runoff into the lake, and what is being done elsewhere to address nutrient issues in major water bodies. Our specific project objectives are as follows: 1)Inventory current nutrient reduction policies being utilized in the Lake Erie water basin in northern Ohio as a result of state and/or federal programmatic efforts, along with key elements of the strategies used to implement them; 2)Identify nutrient reduction policies and implementation strategies used by other place based water quality management programs elsewhere in the country, and collect information relevant to their effectiveness; 3)Determine nutrient reduction strategies that appear promising for reducing nutrient loads to Lake Erie from northern Ohio, based on their success or perceived success in other areas of the country and the potential for them to usefully supplement current policies and strategies being implemented in Ohio’s Lake Erie Basin; 4) Develop lessons learned and recommendations for nutrient reduction policies and strategies to implement in northern Ohio; 5) Develop a report of the findings and recommendations and make it available to key stakeholders and decision-makers in Ohio and elsewhere. To the extent that time and resources allow, we may also conduct targeted briefings for key officials and organizations with interests in reducing nutrient flows to Lake Erie. The benefit of this information will be to: 1) enable the multiple organizations at the state and federal levels involved in controlling nutrients to know what each other is doing; 2) to enable these organizations to implement new and innovative approaches that will likely add to the effectiveness of existing nutrient controls.