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The threat of harmful algal blooms (HABs) continues to plague Lake Erie, prompting intensified efforts from binational jurisdictions to address this persistent environmental challenge. Central to this endeavor is the mitigation of phosphorus, recognized as a key driver of algal blooms, through coordinated action plans.

Guided by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), federal, state, and provincial jurisdictions are mandated to develop Domestic Action Plans (DAPs) focused on reducing phosphorus concentrations and nutrient loading into Lake Erie. The hope is that these plans will play a pivotal role in combatting the extent, duration, and toxicity of harmful algal blooms.

In Michigan, MDARD (Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development), EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy), and DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) are leading efforts around the state’s Domestic Action Plan. The goal, aligned with the GLWQA, is to achieve a 40% phosphorus reduction target for Lake Erie by 2025, relative to a 2008 baseline. Key initiatives include regulating point sources such as water treatment plants, and implementing strategies to monitor and mitigate non-point sources. Collaborative efforts extend to partnerships with local conservation districts, university researchers, enhanced water quality monitoring, and technical and financial assistance for watershed management plans.

The recent State of the Western Lake Erie Basin conference, held in Adrian, Michigan on December 12, 2023, provided a vital platform to discuss updates to Michigan’s 2023 Domestic Action Plan for Lake Erie. The conference underscored the importance of stakeholder engagement, community involvement, and sustained collaboration to safeguard the ecological integrity of Lake Erie for future generations.

Attendees received updates from MDARD, EGLE, and DNR leadership. In addition, experts studying phosphorus in the Western Lake Erie Basin shared their insights with conference participants.

  •  Michael Alexander (EGLE): Non-Point Source Monitoring [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Phil Argiroff (EGLE) and Majid Kahn (GLWA): Point Source Load Reductions [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Jeremiah Asher (Michigan State University): Michigan Nutrient Reduction Dashboard [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Rich Batiuk (Coastwise Partners): Elements of Successful Adaptive Management [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Tim Boring (MDARD): Keynote Address [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Shelby Burlew (MDARD): Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Thad Cleary (EGLE): Agricultural Conservation Inventories [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Steve Hamilton (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies): Science Panel Recommendations [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Laura Johnson (Heidelberg University), Jim Hood (Ohio State University), Jeremiah Asher (Michigan State University), Ehsan Ghane (MSU Extension): Approaches to Phosphorus Monitoring [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Clint Nester (Nester Ag): Soil Testing and Nutrient Management [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Adam Reimer (National Wildlife Federation): Farmer Engagement [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Jason Rowntree (Michigan State University): Regenerative Agriculture [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Kali Rush (Ducks Unlimited): Wetlands Conservation Program [WATCH VIDEO]
  • Fred Sklar (South Florida Water Management District): Participatory Modeling [WATCH VIDEO
  • Tom Van Wagner (Lenawee Conservation District): Engaging with Producers [WATCH VIDEO]

 

The conference was an outgrowth of the Western Lake Erie Basin Community Advisory Group, representing rural communities, agricultural services, environmental organizations, equity advocates, water utilities, municipal governments, and lake and coastal businesses. The University of Michigan Water Center is facilitating this group, enabling it to provide valuable input and feedback to the state on behalf of the group’s many networks. In addition, the Water Center has convened a Science Advisory Panel to assess and provide advice on the adaptive management components of the Domestic Action Plan. Read the 2023 Science Panel Report.

“Empowerment comes from open dialogue, collaboration, and collective action,” said Alison Bressler, Project Manager, Western Lake Erie Basin Advisory Group. "The Community Advisory Group convenes leaders from a wide range of backgrounds in the WLEB community to discuss nutrient management across the watershed and, ultimately, help reduce the negative environmental, economic, and social impacts of algal blooms. Our recent conference demonstrates the State of Michigan’s commitment to freely sharing information and expertise with the WLEB community, empowering the very people who use and impact the lake. We can learn from each other and problem-solve together for the benefit of everyone who relies on clean water in Lake Erie."


For more information about the Western Lake Erie Basin advisory group, please visit graham.umich.edu/wleb or contact Alison Bressler (asbressl@umich.edu). This work is generously supported by the Erb Family Foundation.


Cover photo:  MODIS satellite image of Lake Erie, 10/9/11 showing algae bloom Credit: NOAA. CoastWatch of Wikimedia Commons