Gov. Snyder Names Lake Erie “Impaired’ Waterway

The designation was an unwelcome development for farming groups.

Jake Neher/WDET

Gov. Rick Snyder and state environmental officials have declared western Lake Erie is an “impaired” waterway that needs to be cleaned up.

The problem is algae blooms that threaten plants and wildlife. The blooms are caused largely by phosphorous runoff from agricultural fertilizers. Two years ago, the algae blooms forced Toledo to declare a drinking water emergency.

Mike Alexander is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He says Michigan and other states and Canadian provinces that border western Lake Erie are already working on the problem.

“This is just formalizing that concern that we’ve had for some time,” he said. “… We’ve been working with our partners in Ohio, Indiana, Ontario, and the US EPA for quite some time in identify the nutrient concerns in western Lake Erie.”

But the designation was an unwelcome development for farming groups. The Michigan Agri-Business Association and the Michigan Farm Bureau both issued statements criticizing the decision. They say it could trigger unnecessary federal regulations.

Jim Byrum is the president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association:

“Instead of encouraging constructive solutions, today’s announcement sets the table for even more government mandates, largely driven by fringe groups out to dismantle Michigan agriculture. The announcement won’t address the heart of the issue or achieve what’s really needed: a full understanding of the problem and new, advanced solutions to solve it.”