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Farmers hear why and how they can help heal Lake Erie

Jeff Reutter, Director of Ohio Sea Grant, reports on the health of Lake Erie.

On the same day that the Ohio House of Representatives Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee gave unanimous approval to SB150, the Nutrient Management Bill requiring farmers to have state certification to apply synthetic or chemical fertilizers to the land, the Lake Erie Farm Forum and Conservation Fair were held at Ottawa County Fairgrounds near Oak Harbor. 

At the forum, hosted by Mike Libben of the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District (OSWCD), speakers addressed the health and importance of Lake Erie and how farmers can voluntarily help to heal the lake and prepare for meeting the standards that will be enforced in 2017.

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Gardner announces new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative

State Senator Randy Gardner, who represents Ottawa and Erie counties, announced Tuesday, March 18 that a new Healthy Lake Erie Initiative has been included in the state’s new Capital Appropriations Budget introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

The initiative will provide $10 million over the next two years in funding to support efforts to reduce open lake dumping in Lake Erie and to implement other clean lake strategies.  Administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the fund will be used primarily to find alternative uses for dredge materials versus current and prospective practices which may be considered less environmentally friendly.

ODNR Director Jim Zehringer praised the initiative as another in a series of efforts to make progress on cleaning up Lake Erie, particularly the toxic algae problem.

“Protecting Lake Erie remains a top priority for Governor Kasich’s administration,” said Zehringer. “Thanks to the partnership and collaborative efforts of Senate President Keith Faber and Senator Randy Gardner through the Healthy Lake Erie Initiative, we will continue practices to address nutrient issues in the Lake Erie watershed. We recognize more needs to be done and with the help of the governor’s capital bill, we can work toward our shared goal of improving water quality in the western Lake Erie basin.”

Gardner said the new capital funds will build on other efforts to find answers to Lake Erie environmental challenges.

“I am thankful that Senator Faber and Governor Kasich agree that more needs to be done to attack problems affecting Lake Erie,” Gardner said. “The lake is one of Ohio’s great natural assets with tremendous impact on jobs and quality of life.  We have an obligation to continue the fight.”

While Gardner said most of the efforts to date have focused on the western Lake Erie basin, recent controversies in Cuyahoga County regarding dredging disposal issues indicate attention is needed all along Ohio’s northern coast.

Gardner praised the involvement of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the Charter Boat Association and the Lake Erie Improvement Association, among many organizations, in addition to ODNR and Ohio EPA officials for providing ideas to help mitigate the need for open lake dumping of dredge materials.  

House and Senate committee hearings are expected in the Ohio House and Senate over the next couple of weeks.

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Coast Guard warns of ice-breaking on Tuesday

Image: www.uscg.mil

The Coast Guard is advising residents of southern Lake Erie islands, including Catawba Island, that the commercial tug Ohio is scheduled to break ice from South Bass Island to Catawba Island on Tuesday morning.

This ice-breaking operation does not involve a Coast Guard ice breaker. Nonetheless, the Coast Guard is advising residents and visitors that any ice in the area may be particularly unstable and dangerous.

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