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Lake Erie Improvement Association presents Healing the Lake: Bring Back the Blue Featured

Guest speaker State Representative Chris Redfern with LEIA president Jim Stouffer and guest speaker Ohio Senator Randy Gardner.

“There is not a more vital resource in our backyard than Lake Erie,” said Lake Erie Improvement Association (LEIA) President and Chairman/CEO of Catawba Island Club Jim Stouffer Friday at LEIA’s Healing the Lake: Bring Back the Blue event held at Catawba Island Club. “The lake affects jobs and families. Anything we can do as a marine or hospitality industry we need to do it. We have to make sure this resource stays vibrant.”

LEIA is a Lake Erie watershed-wide economic sustainability initiative dedicated to healthy waters and fish by promoting cooperation and wise resource management for the benefit of the Lake Erie basin. The goal of LEIA is to reduce nutrient loading into Lake Erie and to help address other Lake Erie challenges. LEIA bridges the gap between public and private Lake Erie stakeholders, using a business model approach. LEIA is uniquely positioned as the organization that speaks for healthy Lake Erie dependent businesses to promote economic sustainability.

The event, which raised $6000, was held in conjunction with the Progressive Catawba Island In-Water Boat Show.

Great Lakes Brewery was at the event and provided complimentary beer. Colin Dussault and his Blues Project Band were there to provide entertainment for those in attendance. Guest speakers at the event included State Representative Chris Redfern and Ohio Senator Randy Gardner.

“It makes a difference when people come together with collective interest,” said Stouffer. “These two men are our champions (referring to Redfern and Gardner); we cannot have success without friends in Columbus.”

After a stellar introduction, Senator Gardner spoke. “It is obvious what we need to do, but we need to provide leadership to get it done. One of the key reasons that I went back to the senate for a second term was because there was so much more to do. We are advocating for something that is vital to our districts.”

“If there is any issue to bring Democrats and Republicans together, it ought to be this,” said Gardner.

Redfern echoed this also in his speech, “Our stories from childhood involve the lake. We will be your voice every chance we get. There are many things we might not agree on, but we do work well together on things we do agree on. The one thing we can all agree on is the health and importance of Lake Erie.”

LEIA outlines Lake Erie’s economic benefits as shipping, birding, commercial and recreational fishing, agriculture, tourism, industrial and boating.

According to LEIA, the current challenges facing Lake Erie are:

  • Harmful algal blooms and excess nutrients. Caused by excess nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen, algal blooms require warm water. The main sources of excess nutrients are wastewater discharge, agricultural runoff, manure runoff and storm water.
  • Microbial and chemical contamination.  Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, atrazine, antibiotics and chemicals are all of concern. Sources include wastewater plants, agriculture, manure and storm.
  • Sediments and turbidity. 3.3 million tons of sediment rolls off the land and into Lake Erie annually, which is the largest sediment load in the Great Lakes.
  • Climate change. With the exception of this past winter, Lake Erie has experienced less ice cover and warmer water. There are also increased periods of drought.
  • Drinking water. Public drinking water intakes are at risk from algae.
  • Declining sport fish population. Native species have decreased in the past decade due to overharvesting, habitat loss and invasive species.
  • Asian carp. Asian carp eat walleye, yellow perch and bass food supply, leading to dramatically decreased sport fishing.
  • Habitat loss. The Lake Erie basin has lost over 80% of coastal wetlands due to urbanization and conversion to farmland.
  • Changing water levels. Lakes Michigan and Huron hit record lows in 2012 and Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes are also experiencing decreasing water levels that threaten Great Lakes shipping. Lower water levels extend shorelines. Decreasing lake levels impact boating and aquatic life, and could impact surface drinking water sources, especially in the rivers.

“Mother nature has a mind of her own. So much goes into account to control algal blooms,” said Stouffer. “With scientists and economic folks helping, we are learning something new every day.”

For more information about the Lake Erie Improvement Association or to donate to the cause, visit lakeerieimprovement.org.

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