WASHINGTON, D.C. — Amid growing concern over the spread of blue-green algae in the Western Lake Erie basin, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) invited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief conservation expert to Ohio and emphasized the importance of maintaining a focus on conservation programs to improve nutrient management and reduce soil erosion. Recently, front-page stories about blue-green algae have run in the Lorain Morning Journal, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, and the Sandusky Register.
“The Western Lake Erie basin is a fragile ecosystem that has been out-of-balance for years. The severity of the algae bloom in the basin this year poses a threat to Ohio’s economy and Ohioans’ ability to enjoy the lake,” Brown said. “We must double down our efforts to restore the health of Lake Erie, and conservation is an important component of improving water quality and reducing algal bloom. I’m inviting the Agriculture Department’s chief agriculture conservation expert to Ohio so he can see the lake firsthand and meet with local experts who are working to improve nutrient management and improve the basin.”
In the letter, Brown invited Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resource Conservation Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to visit the Western Lake Erie basin. Yesterday, the Natural Resource Conservation Service released a new report indicating “conservation practice use in the Great Lakes region has reduced sediment, nutrient, and pesticide losses from farm fields” but “there remain[s] significant opportunities for reducing nonpoint agricultural sources of pollution.”
Brown, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is working with Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan to ensure that the 2012 Farm Bill provides the Natural Resource Conservation Service with tools to increase conservation efforts in the Western Lake Erie basin and throughout the Great Lakes. Earlier this year, Brown launched his “Grown in Ohio” listening session tour to get input from Ohio farmers as the Senate considers the 2012 Farm Bill. Brown has held four sessions so far, in Chesterland, Chillicothe, New Philadelphia, and Custar.
Additionally, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Brown has fought to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. GLRI funding has helped support the removal of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality.
The text of Brown’s letter can be found below.
Mr. Dave White
Natural Resource Conservation Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington D.C. 20250
Dear Chief White:
Harmful algal blooms continue to be one of the most persistent challenges to the Western Lake Erie basin. Last week alone, front page stories published by the Lorain Morning Journal, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, and the Sandusky Register indicated that blue-green algae blooms are worsening in the basin.
As we mark Great Lakes Week, I urge you to continue the positive contributions NRCS and your field staff have made to improving water quality in Lake Erie—Lake Erie plays a particularly important role in the lives of millions of Ohioans. Generations of Ohioans have spent their summers enjoying Lake Erie’s world class fisheries and calm waters for boating and recreation. Every year, tourism related to the lake contributes more than $10 billion to Ohio’s economy.
As you know, harmful algal blooms are evidence of larger problems across the watershed. The 2011 Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) report released yesterday emphasizes that conservation must play an important role in restoring the health of Lake Erie. The work that has been made possible through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and USDA conservation programs has contributed greatly to improvements in the basin; however, more can and should be done.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am working with Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan to make sure the next Farm Bill provides the Natural Resource Conservation Service the direction and authority necessary to improve conservation efforts in the Western Lake Erie basin and throughout the Great Lakes region. I would also like to invite you to visit Ohio to see firsthand the algal blooms in Lake Erie and meet with the Ohioans who are working together to improve the watershed.
Thank you for your dedication and service in the effort to improve the health of Lake Erie and our nation’s working lands.