Video: Lake Erie algae blooms hurt local economy

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By Steven Maier

Dean Thompson is not a fan of algal blooms.

“It’s a terrible thing that we’re doing to our lake, and we really need to be more aware of what’s going on,” he said.

In September, in conjunction with an event organized by the National Wildlife Federation, Thompson took a group of students, environmentalists and reporters out on Maumee Bay, Lake Erie, to show off the blooms firsthand.

It was a cloudless morning. As the sun rose, the algae collected. Over the course of 30 minutes, floating specks on the water’s surface gathered to paint thick streaks of green across the bay.

Thompson, the owner and operator of Reel Fun Charters, based in Toledo, has fished Maumee Bay and other parts of Lake Erie for 35 years. This has been one of the worst years for business, he said.

“Our business is down for the fall, fishing’s probably down 40 percent,” he said. “I’ve had people call me up and say, ‘Well, we heard all the bad publicity about the lake not being safe to drink, and so we’re not coming.’”

The algae is the result of high levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus pouring in from sources like wastewater treatment plants, manure and home sewage systems.

Northwestern Ohio saw three separate instances of fish die-offs in creeks and streams in the month of August. Officials estimate that 66,000 fish died that month, killed by manure runoff from local farms.

The beach at Maumee State Park was empty this Memorial Day, Thompson said. The tourism industry is reeling, and the rest of the area feels the effects of that.

Those who do visit the beach are greeted by a sign discouraging swimming. They warn of the bacteria spurred on by the blooms.

Western Lake Erie, renowned for its fishing, is still hanging on, Thompson said. The perch are biting this fall, and anglers still catch large amounts of walleye—though many are disappointingly small.

Government officials are fighting back, mostly by limiting the algae-powering phosphorus coming from farm runoff. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are both creating phosphorus-reduction plans.

Their goal is to reduce the phosphorus in Lake Erie by 4.9 million pounds in the next nine years. An estimated 2.4 million pounds have been cut since 2008.  ee

3 thoughts on “Video: Lake Erie algae blooms hurt local economy

  1. There is an organization in Wisconsin–The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance–that involves citizen volunteers, industry, and farmers in working to rehabilitate the watershed of the Fox and Wolf rivers near the Green Bay. This is a groundbreaking effort. There is not enough participation, but there is good research being done and good data being collected on how to keep phosphate, in particular legacy phosphate, on the land and not in the bodies of water. These organizations need to be stood up all over SE Michigan and NE Ohio, and the problem needs to be solved, since it is solvable.

  2. Would all of us finally call the question here: Why aren’t those causing this damage and loss made to pay and restore the damage, harm, losses, and impairment under the common law duties and liability imposed by the public trust doctrine. Lake Erie like other navigable waters are held in trust by the states and provinces bordering the lake. This trust means every citizen is a beneficiary of this public trust, and each citizen and/or state can enforce against those who have and are or will impair or interfere with the protected public trust uses: fishing, boating, swimming, drinking water sustenance, navigation. Science has identified the direct connection and causation by the acts and omissions of giant agriculture and fossil fuel industry. Those who have been or are threatened with harm have the legal right to do something about it. P.S. Riparian owners and businesses, cities also have riparian claims and public and private nuisance claims.

  3. Their loss is N.Y.P.A.’s gain. The use of an ice boom makes 2% more profit for them at the expense of everyone else. It stalls the normal conveyor on the Lower Great Lakes. This is what you get. It will only get worse until the ice boom is outlawed. JBB

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