Lake Erie has dodged a bullet this summer – a backhanded thanks to the drought – and the seasonal bloom of toxic blue-green algae “pea soup” is expected to be minor.
But that in no way is any reason to fold the campaign tent and go home when it comes to a long-term fix to the ugly, toxic condition that threatens fishing and recreation and tourism.
In its first ever forecast on harmful algal blooms, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) recently predicted a mild bloom similar to that of 2007. That would be and about one-tenth the size of last year’s monstrous bloom. But:
“If we have a real wet spring in 2013, we could be right back to where we were,” said Jeff Reutter, director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory. He noted in a conversation at Lake Erie Fish Ohio Day earlier this month that if the problem of farmland fertilizer runoff — especially in the sprawling Maumee River watershed, the Great Lakes’ largest at 6,600 square miles – is not fixed, harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie will not go away.
Summed Reutter: “We haven’t done enough yet to fix it.” Flood events apparently are the principal source of large slugs of farm runoff that overload algae nutrients, principally phosphorus, into the rivers and ultimately the lake. There are other sources, but agricultural one is the kingpin because of the concentration of fertilizer and current flows that feed shallow western Lake Erie and nearshore areas of the central basin to the east.
Gov. John Kasich, speaking at Fish Ohio day, pledged his backing of an all-out effort to fix the noxious problem. “We’re aware of it; we’re pushing it. We’ve got to make sure the lake is healthy,” he stated. Sport fishermen and anyone involved in the tourism and the lake recreation industries need to hold him to that pledge.