Calls for disciplined use of funds only “where science has directed”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) heralded news today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest an additional $5,000,000 across Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to improve water quality in Lake Erie’s western basin.
“Science tells us that if we want to stop Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms, we need to drastically reduce the amount of harmful nutrients entering Lake Erie’s tributaries, especially dissolved phosphorous from animal livestock,” saidCongresswoman Kaptur. “Animals contribute about 13 times as much of the total waste in our country as humans do every year. The math is clear. Our efforts to expand monitoring in the surrounding watersheds are starting to give us the data we need to pinpoint the exact sources of these nutrients in our region, but much more analysis still needs to be done before we have a complete picture. This additional funding from NRCS could have a major positive impact for our work preventing future blooms. But the benefits will be muted unless the resources are used where science has directed that nutrient loading is at its worst.
“Nowhere else in the country will you find a drainage system as concentrated as the one we have here. It acts like a superhighway feeder carrying nutrient runoff from fertilizers, manures, and leaking septic tanks directly into Lake Erie from Western Ohio, eastern Indiana, and lower Michigan. This drainage system pushes the natural slow leeching of runoff to the lake. Our region must engineer systems to filter and slow down the harmful nutrients that feed algal blooms. Our lake is choking. We must learn to live in communion with nature, not subvert her. Science is our most important ally in detecting harmful sources and eliminating them.”
These funds are available through the 2014 Farm Bill and will be awarded through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). They will be used to help farmers in the region reduce the amount of harmful nutrients entering Lake Erie’s tributaries through the use of cover crops, drainage water management systems, and nutrient management strategies. Farmers and ranchers typically contribute around half of the cost of implementingthese conservation practices.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsackremarked, “USDA is committed to helping farmers do their part to protect and improve water quality in Lake Erie, and this targeted funding will allow for solutions to be expanded and delivered more quickly. A problem as complex as this one will demand wide attention, from agriculture to municipalities, and we will continue to work with the Western Lake Erie Basin Partnership and other partners across the region to find common ground to address water quality issues in the basin.”
Rep. Kaptur accompanied Secretary Vilsack last week visiting Ohio City Farm in Cleveland, OH. She serves as co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force in the House of Representatives. Earlier this year she co-hosted a briefing with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the use of algal bloom tracking and forecasting data and has activelypursued improvements in federal responses to harmful algal blooms. She supported state and local efforts to reduce nutrient loads entering Lake Erie. She co-sponsored legislation directing EPA to appoint an algal bloom response coordinator for the Great Lakes, secured federal funding for improved conservation practices, and sponsored legislation to limit nutrient runoff into Lake Erie. Kaptur also praisedplanning for a $3.6 million algal bloom satellite early warning system using data from NASA, USGS, NOAA and the USEPA and successfully called on NASA to fund the project at the national level. That system is now used to provide NOAA’s harmful algal bloom bulletin every week.
According to a recent presentation by top Lake Erie algal bloom experts, an estimated 80 percent of nutrient loading into Lake Erie during rainy years comes from nonpoint source agricultural runoff.