Distressed Watershed: A Designation to Ease the Algae Crisis in Lake Erie and Beyond
124 DICKINSON LAW REVIEW 1, 2019
53 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2020
Date Written: September 21, 2019
Algae pose a severe problem in many water-bodies nationwide, but the algae crisis is perhaps most acute in Lake Erie. Harmful algal blooms choke the lake every year, causing economic and ecologic damage and threatening public health. Solving the algae crisis in Lake Erie depends upon reducing the amount of nutrients entering the lake, especially from agricultural storm-water runoff. Ohio’s recent designation of Lake Erie as “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act is a positive step, and the resulting Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) should be a useful planning tool in the fight against algae. But because the Clean Water Act and TMDL do not actually regulate non-point sources, it is up to state law to address agricultural runoff.
This article urges another designation for Lake Erie – as a “distressed watershed” under Ohio’s unique distressed watershed rules. A distressed watershed designation would unleash a suite of binding restrictions specifically aimed at reducing nutrient loading from agricultural non-point sources, without the need for any new statute or rule-making. This article also urges other states plagued by algae and agricultural nutrient pollution to consider using Ohio’s innovative distressed watershed rules as a model for their own state rules, and it offers recommendations for improving the rules for Ohio and such other states.
Keywords: Algae, Lake Erie, Nutrient Pollution, Non-point Source, Agriculture
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation