Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement released

Building upon a 2015 agreement to improve Lake Erie water quality with Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, Ohio has taken another step toward achieving a 40% reduction in the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie’s western basin by 2025.

Yesterday, a draft of Ohio’s plan for implementing the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement was released. The plan gives Ohio a two-year jump start on U.S. EPA’s and Canada’s deadline to develop a state Domestic Action Plan required under the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Chad Kemp, president of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and Adam Graham, president of the Ohio Soybean Association released a joint statement.

“As shown in the March 2016 NCRS Study, Effects of Conservation Practice Adoption on Cultivated Cropland Acres in Western Lake Erie Basin, voluntary conservation is making significant headway in reducing nutrient and sediment losses from farm fields,” they said. “We all share the same goal of reducing the impact of runoff on Lake Erie. Ohio grain farmers have been and will continue to champion reasonable and responsible solutions to preserve and improve water quality.”

Action items to be implemented in Ohio with the plan focus on prioritizing and assessing watersheds within the western Lake Erie basin; furthering the use of nutrient best management practices in agriculture and at point source discharges; identifying and fixing failing home septic systems; and improving the coordination of programs and funds being spent in the basin.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission will be coordinating the implementation of the plan with Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Each agency will be accountable for implementing their respective areas of authority included in the plan.

The adaptive management process is central to the long-term implementation of the plan. This means that water quality monitoring, sampling and nutrient management practices processes will be developed, evaluated, and adjusted as circumstances change in order to meet the goals of the Collaborative. Verification that implemented programs are working to reduce nutrients from entering the lake will be key over time as the state moves towards its goal.

Public comments are being sought on a draft Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement Implementation Plan. Ohio agriculture intends to comment.

“Ohio Farm Bureau will be conducting a detailed assessment of this draft plan and will be heavily engaged throughout the comment period. Our initial reaction is that we’re pleased the plan is science based, results oriented and adaptable. It allows for collaboration among local, state and federal agencies, stakeholders and the regulated community. And it recognizes that multiple sources of nutrients must be addressed,” said the Ohio Farm Bureau in a statement. “For decades, farmers, their organizations, and local, state and federal agencies have collaborated to find workable solutions to environmental challenges. In recent years as threats to Ohio’s waters have elevated, the farm community is unmatched in its investment into identifying the causes of those threats and creating solutions.”

The plan was developed with input from various stakeholder groups and state agencies and is available at epa.ohio.gov/Portals/33/documents/WLEBCollaborative.pdf and on the respective state agency websites. Public comments on the draft implementation plan should be sent to collaborativecomments@epa.ohio.gov by the close of business on June 25.

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