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Lake Erie improvement plan will likely have implications for Saginaw Bay

Jen Reed, Michigan Sea Grant

Phosphorous pollution has been responsible for toxic algae blooms in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay and made city water undrinkable for Toledo’s roughly 400-thousand residents along the shores of Lake Erie.

On Tuesday the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced a plan to fight phosphorous in Lake Erie.

The plan includes directly targeting phosphorous pollution from farms - a large contributor to toxic blooms.

Jim Johnson is with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He said the focus is on reducing the amount of phosphorous that makes it into the water - by creating individualized plans for riverside farms.

“To identify in a systematic way all those places where there are environmental risks for phosphorous loadings off of those farms, put together plans to mitigate those risks and actually work through a process of implementing the best plans.”

Johnson said individualized phosphorous reduction plans can be expensive - but along the river Raisin in Southeast Michigan the method has shown results.

“We’ve actually seen a significant reduction in phosphorous loading out of the river Raisin because of the work in that very agricultural watershed. The fact that that’s been working in the river Raisin is an indication we should move ahead with that approach.”

Johnson said the same methods will likely be used to help the Saginaw Bay, which also sees heavy agricultural runoff.