COLUMBUS—State Representative Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) attended the first meeting of the “Toward a Cleaner Lake Erie” working group, a bipartisan, bi-chamber committee to which he was appointed.
The first meeting focused on the most recent data gathered about the Lake Erie watershed and pollutants affecting its water quality. The group heard from interested parties from research groups at Heidelberg University and the Ohio State University, as well as a representative from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Lake Erie provides drinking water for about 11 million Ohioans. However, the rapid growth of invasive algae, usually the result of an excess of nutrients including phosphorus and nitrogen, has repeatedly compromised water quality in the lake’s western basin over the last decade. These rapid growth incidents, known as algal blooms, result in the production of toxins that threaten human health.
In her testimony, Dr. Cathann Kress, Ohio State’s Vice President of Agricultural Administration, explained that though “over 140 faculty and staff [are] conducting research and programs related to water quality” at Ohio State alone, more remains to be discovered about the impact of factors like natural weather events on the health of Lake Erie’s watershed.
Dr. Lee Norfleet of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service discussed “on-farm” solutions that the agricultural community has successfully implemented to reduce the amount of nutrient runoff and the ways that precision agriculture has reduced the amount of nutrients released into the ecosystem.
“I was encouraged to hear from professionals with state and national knowledge about the progress being made in the Lake Erie watershed,” said Koehler. “I look forward to discussing ways we can work together with the agriculture and business communities to capitalize on these early gains.”
The next meeting is expected to be held within six weeks.