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University of Michigan Study Proposes New Solutions for Algae Pollution in Lake Erie

May 3 | 2016  by

By Beth Florkowski of Fausone & Grysko, PLC posted in Environmental Law on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

Paul Bohn, Esq.

A multi-institution computer modeling study on phosphorus reduction efforts in Lake Erie has researchers concerned that the 40% reduction goal will not be reached with current efforts.

Led by the University of Michigan, researchers first created 12 scenarios using a combination of various cropland management practices. Examples include fertilizer application, tillage operations, and land conversion. Each scenario was then tested by six different computer models to gauge the prospects of achieving the 40% reduction goal if that scenario was implemented.

Don Scavia, the lead author of the study, discussed the results; “It appears that traditional voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs would have to be implemented at unprecedented scale or are simply not sufficient to reach these environmental goals and that new complementary policies and programs are needed.”

In fact, less than half of the scenarios (5 out of 12) were successful in reaching the goal and required significant change. For example, one successful scenario took 30,000 acres of cropland out of production and more than 1.5 million acres under stringent conservation. In another scenario, 100% of agricultural operations in the Maumee River watershed would need to practice enhanced nutrient management.

Eliminating the algae-bloom epidemic in Lake Erie clearly will not be a simple task. Cooperation among farmers and political leaders is of paramount importance. If farmers and political leaders do not team up on this issue, the algae blooms will continue to destroy aquatic life and contaminate drinking water for the Great Lakes residents.