In May of 2020, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission approved its 2020 Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan.
The commission says that the plan “reflects the state of Ohio’s strategic priorities for the next two years to protect, preserve, and restore Lake Erie and its watershed, as well as to promote economic development associated with Lake Erie,” according to the commission. Additionally, the plan serves as the framework for administering the Lake Erie Protection Fund and securing federal funding to implement projects in Lake Erie”.
The commission organized its plan into nine priority areas it says addresses current and emerging issues in the Ohio Lake Erie basin.
Here are the priority areas and the goals for each:
- Nutrient Pollution Reduction: Reduce excess nutrient loads from point and nonpoint sources to Lake Erie and its tributaries to achieve state and Great Lakes targets.
- Habitat and Species: Protect, restore, and reintroduce native flora, fauna, and fish that will contribute to the overall health of Lake Erie.
- Dredge Material Management and Maritime Infrastructure: Implement beneficial use of dredge material projects for each Ohio Harbor in time for July 1 ban on open lake disposal. The second goal is to identify and invest in maritime infrastructure areas for Ohio’s Lake Erie harbors and ports to sustain and prepare for existing and emerging port activities.
- Invasive Species: Minimize the potential for invasive species to negatively affect native plants and animals and their habitat.
- Areas of Concern: Progress toward delisting the Maumee, Black, Cuyahoga, and Ashtabula designated areas of concern from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern
- Toxic Pollutants: Reduce persistent bioaccumulative toxic pollutants in Lake Erie. The second goal is the clean-up of brownfield and other toxic pollution sources to reduce toxics contribution to Lake Erie. The third goal is to work toward goals set forth through Annex 3 of Great Lakes Chemicals of Mutual Concern.
- Beach and Recreational Use: Maintain and improve water quality for safe and healthy recreational uses of Lake Erie.
- Tourism, Jobs, and Economy: Promote economic opportunities that sustain and advance communities and their economic sector assets associated with Lake Erie.
- Water Withdrawals: Support the Great Lakes Compact, which serves as the binding agreement between the eight Great Lakes states for the protection and management of Great Lakes waters. Ohio has established a permitting program for new or increased water withdrawals and consumptive uses within the basin. The state will continue to maintain and manage the waters of Lake Erie and its consumptive uses within Ohio’s basin area.
The 2020 plan also includes a list of accomplishments from its previous plan that was released in 2016. Among those accomplishments was removing five Beneficial Use Impairments from the four Lake Erie Ohio Areas of Concern. Another was launching an updated Beaches and Harmful Algal Blooms Advisories system.
Another accomplishment included implementing $18 million to reduce, repair, and replace home sewage treatment systems in 27 counties of the Lake Erie Basin. Another was the publishing of two two Nutrient Mass Balance studies by Ohio EPA to characterize loading of nutrients in key watershed basins.
The Ohio Lake Erie Commission was established in 1990 and coordinates state efforts to protect and restore the lake. The commission participates in federal and international Great Lakes policies and programs, and “engages with local communities and other stakeholders for outreach about Lake Erie resources,” according to the report.
The commission comprises the directors of six Ohio agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Natural Resources, Resources, Health, Agriculture, Transportation, and Development Services. Five additional members are appointed by the governor and two board members of the Great Lakes Protection Fund who serve as ex-officio members of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission.