I first started visiting Lake Erie a number of years ago, often in the summer season, to see a friend who would come home from his east coast – west coast life from time to time to visit his hometown near the Lake Erie Islands. Route 2 became a welcome journey, with many stops along the way at the numerous parks and wildlife refuges that hug the western basin. As a Michigan resident, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was somewhat unique as a traveler from the north, with a destination that wasn’t Cedar Point, but more simply to experience the loveliness of a Lake Erie mystique. For this, I am forever grateful. This Lake has changed me.
LakeErieFuturesBlog Ten: Local Needs Can Be Included In the Evolving, Bi-National Level Great Lakes Process (First Quarter: Jan., Feb. and March 2016) By Terry H. Martin, Ph.D., and Guest Co-Author Shannon Dougherty, NYSDEC’s GL Watershed Coordinator
Everyone agrees that recent toxic algae and other problems in Lake Erie need to be eliminated in order to protect the health and quality of life for millions of people in the Great Lakes Basin.
A Renewed, Two Nation, Process Continues to Evolve
Fortunately, a renewed and more focused process to clean up the Great Lakes has been created under the updated, bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. (GLWQA 2012). Under this Agreement, existing comprehensive and science-based Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs) will be updated for each of the five Great Lakes. In the U.S., these efforts are being made possible through the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
A Joint Action Plan for Lake Erie by Victoria Pebbles, Program Director, Great Lakes Commission
Lake Erie is the most productive of the Great Lakes, in part because it is the shallowest, most southern, and therefore also the warmest. These features also make Lake Erie more vulnerable to changes in inputs or external conditions and allow people to observe those changes more readily. For four of the last five years, Lake Erie has been plagued with severe Harmful Algal Blooms. NOAA indicates that the 2015 bloom was the worst this century1.
Although scientific questions remain about algal blooms and their toxicity, we know that excessive nutrient runoff from is a primary culprit. The 2014 Toledo Water Crisis was a wake-up call. Citizens and policy makers at all levels began responding with demands for tougher looks at how nutrients are used and managed on farms to improved systems for detecting toxic algae at drinking water treatment plants—and everything in between.
As a state legislator in the Toledo area, one of the most prevalent and impacting issues that I deal with is the health of the water supply in our area. We have encountered some very serious contamination problems within Lake Erie and our water supply. Nutrient run-off into the lake unwittingly led to harmful, record breaking algal blooms in 2011, and spelled trouble in coming years for the water quality of the lake. At its peak, the bloom covered six times the area of New York City, and caused serious harm to the ecosystem of the lake, and cost lakeside cities $5,500 per day on chemical treatments to reverse the effects.
LakeErieFuturesBlog Nine: Bi-National Priorities Need Local Support and Local Priorities Need Bi-National Support Fourth Quarter: October, November and December, 2015. By Terry H. Martin, Ph.D., and Guest Co-Author Joanna Panasiewicz
New York State has a grass-roots organization called, The Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance (LEWPA). This local alliance is devoted to protecting Lake Erie’s watersheds, water, and the quality of all life within those environments. The driving forces behind this local alliance are municipalities, community and non-governmental leaders, counties, and state environmental officials.
The area covered by this alliance includes all of the sub-basins in New York State that drain into Lake Erie and the Niagara River near the City of Buffalo. What makes the people behind this effort stand out is their desire to protect their environment in the context of a newly emerging, binational Great Lakes management framework. This new management framework was authorized by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 2012, between the U.S. and Canada (GLWQA 2012).
The Ontario government recently did something wonderful for the Great Lakes. They passed the Great Lakes Protection Act!
Freshwater Future Canada is thrilled to see that the Great Lakes community finally achieved this hard won battle. The bill was first introduced back in 2012, but failed to make it to the final vote twice before, when government shut down for elections. While the delays were frustrating, in the end it may have been a good thing because the version of the bill that eventually passed was significantly stronger, more accountable and more transparent than its original version – thanks to the work of many conservation groups.
LakeErieFuturesBlog 8: Great Lakes Environmental Emergencies Can Be Deadly Second Quarter (April, May, June), 2015 By Terry H. Martin, Ph.D. Charter Member, Lake Erie LAMP Binational Public Forum (1995-Present)
Lake Erie’s ecosystem has potentials for harboring serious environmental problems. They can come in a variety of forms and may seem minor at any given moment. It is easy to ignore emerging problems.
LakeErieFuturesBlog Seven: Our Ecosystem Needs Cross-Boundary Awareness at All Levels (Fourth Quarter 2014) by By Terry H. Martin, Ph.D., with Guest Co-author George McKibbon, MCIP, RPP, AICP, CIP.
The Province of Ontario and New York State share two of the five Great Lakes. They share the water and coastal and watershed areas for Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and portions of the St. Lawrence River system. They also share state, federal and binational stewardship responsibilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreements (GLWQAs) between Canada and the United States.