Fri March 16, 2012
Great Lakes Restoration and Algae Updates
Federal agriculture officials say they're spending $2 million to help farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana keep phosphorus from entering waterways in the western Lake Erie basin.
The U.S. Agriculture Department says projects include using new tools such as biofilters and controlled drainage. Officials say excessive phosphorus from manure causes blue-green algae to proliferate in rivers and streams, limiting oxygen concentrations in water.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to announce the effort today in Michigan.
The projects build on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a larger plan to fix environmental problems in the lakes and their tributaries. The Great Lakes system contains nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh water.
Applications for funding are due at local Natural Resources Conservation Service offices by April 27.
Ohio's farmers are being asked to help cut down on the amount of fertilizer and manure that flows into Lake
Erie where massive algae blooms have killed fish and driven away tourists.
State officials studying Lake Erie's growing algae problem say they won't force farmers to make any changes right away, but they could down the road. They hope that farmers will adjust when and where they use fertilizers on their own.
The recommendations released Thursday say the state isn't singling out farmers.
It's widely believed that phosphorus runoff from farms and waste treatment plants is a main contributor to the algae outbreaks.
Ohio officials called the algae blooms that popped out last summer the worst in memory, causing beach closures along Lake Erie and driving away boaters and anglers.