Learning to Love the Great Black Swamp

Midwestern settlers worked for generations to tame the wicked swamplands west of Lake Erie. Can they be convinced to give some back?

ON SATURDAY, August 2, 2014, the water supply for the city of Toledo, Ohio, was poisoned. Officials issued an unequivocal order to the half million residents connected to the municipal intake: Don’t drink, cook, or brush your teeth with the water. Do not use it to bathe your children, nor people with weakened immune systems. And don’t give it to your pets. Stores ran out of bottled water, leaving residents to queue up at local fire stations or even travel to neighboring states to find alternative supplies.

“Ohio has eliminated a large percentage of our natural wetlands,” a county engineer said. “I say ‘good,’ because that’s where I live.”

An Ohio resident holds up a jar with water collected from Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State Park in 2014.  Visual by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

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Seneca County farmers see value in Lake Erie programs Donald Trump wants to cut: Ohio Matters

Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland.comBy Mary Kilpatrick, cleveland.com
on March 29, 2017 at 6:00 AM, updated March 29, 2017 at 11:30 AM

TIFFIN, Ohio —  Farmers in Seneca County hold a complicated view of President Donald Trump’s proposal to drastically cut environmental and Great Lakes protection programs.

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Without EPA support, Lake Erie could be “poster child of pollution” once again

It’s an especially precarious time for Lake Erie’s future.

That’s according to Jeffrey Reutter, an aquatic biologist and limnologist from Ohio State University who has studied the lake since 1971.

It’s his belief that if we lose the EPA, we lose Lake Erie.

And while the Trump administration isn’t proposing a complete eradication of the department, The Washington Post this week reports that the White House is proposing to cut staff at the EPA by a fifth, and to cut its budget from $8.2 billion a year to $6.1 billion.

Lake Erie
CREDIT TOM WHITTEN / FLICKR

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Trump seeks elimination of Great Lakes restoration funding

By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer

POSTED: 03/16/17, 7:20 PM EDT|UPDATED: 13 HRS AG

FILE ‘Äì In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, the water intake crib for the city of Toledo, Ohio, is surrounded by an algae bloom on Lake Erie, about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. A Great Lakes cleanup program that may be on the Trump administration’s chopping block has funded work in Ohio to slow down Lake Erie’s toxic algae. A draft of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget proposal obtained by The Associated Press shows the Great Lakes fund is one of several programs targeted for big cuts. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
FILE  In this Aug. 3, 2014, file photo, the water intake crib for the city of Toledo, Ohio, is surrounded by an algae bloom on Lake Erie, about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio. A Great Lakes cleanup program that may be on the Trump administration’s chopping block has funded work in Ohio to slow down Lake Erie’s toxic algae. A draft of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget proposal obtained by The Associated Press shows the Great Lakes fund is one of several programs targeted for big cuts. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump wants to eliminate federal support of a program that addresses the Great Lakes’ most pressing environmental threats.

Trump’s 2018 budget released Thursday would remove all funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has received strong support from members of Congress in both parties since President Barack Obama established it in 2009.

The program has pumped more than $2.2 billion into the eight-state region for projects that have removed toxic wastes from industrial harbors, fought invasive species such as Asian carp, restored wildlife habitat and supported efforts to prevent harmful algal blooms.

The initiative has generally received about $300 million a year. Congress voted last year to authorize the program for five more years.

A Trump campaign representative said last fall the Republican nominee supported the program.

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Trump’s budget cuts could devastate Lake Erie algal bloom-tracking system, shut down Stone Lab

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Proposed budget cuts to water protection and restoration programs on Lake Erie could potentially threaten the drinking water for 11 million people. (Lisa DeJong/Plain Dealer file photo)

James F. McCarty, The Plain DealerBy James F. McCarty, The Plain Dealer
on March 09, 2017 at 12:05 PM, updated March 09, 2017 at 12:07 PM

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The political assault on Lake Erie got worse this week.

The dust had hardly settled from a leaked budget memo revealing the potential demise of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative when a second round of bad news arrived.

A four-page document obtained by The Washington Post showed the Trump administration has proposed cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual budget by nearly $1 billion, essentially destroying the agency’s forecasting and tracking system of toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie.

The proposed cuts also would potentially devastate NOAA’s Sea Grant College program – including Ohio State University’s iconic Stone Lab on Gibraltar Island near Put-in-Bay — that assists in tracking the algal blooms, helps to train the next generation of coastal experts, and provides on-the-ground support of sustainable fisheries and workforce development.

Combined, the cuts would greatly reduce scientists’ ability to track and prevent future algal blooms such as the one in 2014 that forced Toledo’s water system to be shut down for three days, said Jeff Reutter, the former director of Ohio Sea Grant.

Such cuts “would virtually guarantee jeopardizing the safety of the American public,” Rick Spinrad, NOAA’s former chief scientist, told the Post.

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These Programs Keep Toxic Algae out of Drinking Water—And Trump Wants to Gut Them

Blooms from fertilizer runoff cost the US economy about $2 billion a year.

On a weekend morning in the summer of 2014, the 400,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio, woke up to a stark warning: Don’t drink the tap water, and don’t wash dishes or bathe kids in it. The problem: An enormous algae bloom had floated over the city’s municipal water intake in Lake Erie, fouling the city’s water with a toxin that “causes cells to shrink, which causes blood to spill into the liver and can quickly lead to death,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lake Erie’s algae bloom was hardly a natural phenomenon—it was driven by the millions of acres of farmland that drain fertilizer-laced runoff into the lake, which in turn feed the annual poison-spewing blooms, which in turn force Toledo and other cities clustered around Lake Erie to spend millions of dollars per year in filtration efforts—which, as happened in 2014, sometimes fail.

Toxic algae blooms are a nationwide problem. In August 2016, no fewer than 19 states had to issue public health advisories because of them, according to the EPA. Annually, the damage they cause—everything from increased filtration costs to declines in fish populations—costs the US economy about $2 billion. Lake Erie, which provides water to 11 million people, is a particularly stark example of their ravages.

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