Outdoors: Great Lakes report underscores Lake Erie problems

I just finished reading the recently released “State of the Great Lakes 2017 Highlights Report: An overview of the status and trends of the Great Lakes ecosystem.” It read pretty much as I expected: the areas of greatest concern are, for the most part, in the Ohio portion of Lake Erie.

The report, issued by the U.S. EPA and the Canadian government, says, for example, ongoing programs have helped maintain water quality, allowing thousands of beaches in the Great Lakes to be open and enjoyed by millions. The only red marks are in Lake Erie where beaches have been closed for high concentrations of E. coli and toxic algae. The overall condition for Lake Erie beaches is “deteriorating.”

Lake Erie got the same “deteriorating” grade for fish consumption, saying contaminants such as PCBs are at the same level as when last sampled in 2011. That doesn’t mean fish from Lake Erie shouldn’t be consumed, but it would be a good idea to check the Ohio EPA’s web page, epa.ohio.gov/dsw/fishadvisory/index.aspx, to determine which species have guidelines for safe consumption. Fortunately there are no warnings about yellow perch or walleyes.

The same disappointing grade goes to Lake Erie for quality of habitat for several species, including birds, animals and plants.

But, of course, the big problem for Lake Erie is toxic algae caused by an overload of nutrients caused mostly by farm runoff. Taken from the report: “Lake Erie’s ecosystem is in poor condition and the trend is deteriorating. Harmful algal blooms resulting from excessive nutrient inputs occur regularly in the western basin and Lake St. Clair …”

After reading the report, Michael Murray, Ph.D., staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, said: “The report underscores the need for the United States and Canada to continue supporting efforts to restore the Great Lakes. As the report makes clear, progress is being made, but serious threats remain. Lake Erie’s deteriorating health serves as a warning that public officials on both sides of the border cannot let their guards down. The millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, health, jobs and way of life are counting on public officials to continue to make Great Lakes restoration and protection a top priority.”

If Murray’s statement hints there may be upcoming cuts to Great Lakes restoration funding, it’s because Congress and the Trump administration seem to be leaning that way. After seeing the green water of Lake Erie during the past few years, I hope those cuts don’t appear.

Up a creek?: According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources: "Paddle sports in Ohio have increased in popularity over the past several years. In 2016, more than 181,203 Ohioans registered canoes, kayaks or other paddle-specific watercraft. Over the last decade (2007-2016), Ohio's kayak and canoe registrations (including liveries) have increased 151 percent."

Two Paddle Ohio events are scheduled in the Miami Valley. They are:

• July 22-23: Lake Fest at Cowan Lake State Park, starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Many opportunities to canoe, kayak and paddleboard. For information, contact sarah.blair@dnr.state.oh.us.

• Sept. 3: Little Miami Scenic River, 5-9 p.m. Meet at Caesar Creek State Park campground and take shuttle to the river. A fish shocking demonstration will be part of the program. Contact melissa.clark@dnr.state.oh.us

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