Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada released a major report on Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms today at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo. She was joined by Professor Kenneth Kilbert, Director of the Legal Institute of the Great Lakes, and Professor Jack Tuholske, Director Vermont Law School Water & Justice Program, legal experts and authors of the report Moving Forward: Legal Solutions to Lake Erie’s Harmful Algal Blooms.
The report, Moving Forward, commissioned by the Lucas County Commissioners, is an in-depth analysis of the legal tools available to government leaders and policymakers to address water quality issues and examines the other regions that are grappling with similar challenges.
“It is our duty and obligation to protect the health of Lake Erie, today, and for future generations,” Commissioner Contrada said. This report gives us the legal tools needed to build a regional model to meet the greatest environmental challenge of our time: restoring the health of Lake Erie. Our Great Lake can again be a dependable source of fresh drinking water and a vibrant source of recreation and economic prosperity. We cleaned up Lake Erie before. We can, and must, do it again.”
Commissioner Contrada and Professors Kilbert & Tuholske outlined a comprehensive set of recommendations for the region to consider regarding the harmful algal blooms in the Maumee River Watershed & Western Lake Erie Basin. Among the recommendations is a call on the Ohio General Assembly to enact strong legislation to reduce phosphorus, regulate point and nonpoint sources, and provide agencies with statutory authority to take action.
“Harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie are a multi-state problem, and Ohio cannot solve it alone,” commented Professor Kilbert. “But it is equally true that the harmful algal blooms problem won’t be solved unless Ohio steps up and does more to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the lake and its tributaries from sources here in Ohio.”
“Clean water is an achievable goal,” stated Professor Tuholske. “We did as a nation in the 1970s by curbing industrial pollution. We can do it for Lake Erie and nutrient pollution. Voluntary, piecemeal efforts won't work. Solving nutrient pollution will take a strong legal mandate and willingness for all stakeholders to be part of the solution.”
Immediately following the press conference, Commissioner Contrada will host a regional water conversation at the National Museum of the Great Lakes which will include a presentation and discussion of Moving Forward including the recommended next steps. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur will offer a video message about solutions to the Lake Erie water restoration.
Lake Erie provides drinking water to over 11 million people. It is the world’s 11th largest lake in surface area, and supports a multi-state and international economy, generating $12 billion a year and over 100,000 jobs. Lake Erie sustains a natural ecosystem, and is home to more consumable fish than all the other Great Lakes combined, particularly in the warm, shallow waters of the Western Basin.