The impact of phosphorus loadings to the Great Lakes is once again threatening the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem. These impacts are especially pronounced in nearshore areas and embayments, which are often the most ecologically productive and diverse areas of the system. Algal blooms fed by excessive phosphorus from various nonpoint and point sources are occurring in each of the Great Lakes, but especially Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, Green Bay on Lake Michigan and nearshore areas of Lake Ontario. In western Lake Erie the re-emergence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in recent years has been especially troubling, coming after nearly two decades of little or no occurrence of these blooms.
As a result of this alarming trend, the Great Lakes Commission adopted a resolution, Nutrient Management in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin, on October 12, 2011. This resolution, included as Appendix A, underscored the seriousness of the problem and called for the establishment of a Phosphorus Reduction Task Force consisting of members from each state and province in the Great Lakes region. The states and provinces appointed members to the Task Force in November 2011. The Task Force included representatives from environmental protection, natural resource and agricultural agencies; a list of Task Force members is included as Appendix B.
The Task Force’s charge was to develop phosphorus reduction recommendations to guide the Commission’s work in this critically important area. The specific charge to the Task Force included:
1. Developing a suite of recommendations for federal, state and provincial actions to reduce phosphorus loadings to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, focused on priorities for clean water infrastructure, research, technical assistance, and outreach and education;
2. Reviewing opportunities for expanding and enhancing programs under the 2012 Farm Bill to
reduce phosphorus and improve nutrient management for water quality improvement; and
3. Investigating opportunities to address critical nutrient management issues by working more closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its technical committees in each state.
This report addresses the first two of these charges. Task three is ongoing and will be informed by the recommendations in this report. When received by the Commission at its 2012 Annual Meeting, this report will guide interactions with the state technical committees and similar bodies in Ontario and Québec.
While completing the programs report, the Task Force considered how to best present the priority issues facing the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin related to phosphorus loadings and impacts. Ultimately, it decided to prepare in-depth summaries describing emerging issues, unmet needs and unanswered questions on the following topics:
1. Phosphorus issues related to nonpoint source pollution;
2. Phosphorus issues related to point source pollution; and
3. Phosphorus issues related to product formulation, innovation, research and regulation.
This report is presented as a product of the Phosphorus Reduction Task Force of the Great Lakes Commission. The Commission appreciates the valuable contributions from the Task Force members, their expertise and the time they devoted to reviewing this report as it was prepared.
Great Lakes Commision, "Priorities for Reducing Phosphorus Loadings and Abating Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin: Opportunities and Challenges for Improving Great Lakes Aquatic Ecosystems" (2012). Government Documents. 36.