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Lake Erie Programs

The Division of Surface Water participates in many Lake Erie and Great Lakes-related efforts. The main focus areas are:

  • The Ohio Domestic Action Plan.
  • The bi-national Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) for Lake Erie.

These efforts are centered on reducing the loadings of pollutants and restoring all beneficial uses to these waterbodies. These programs are described in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States and are mandated under the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act amendment to the Clean Water Act. The Ohio Phosphorus Task Force I and II was an early Ohio effort to address renewed algae blooms. The task force members reviewed phosphorus loading data from Ohio tributaries to Lake Erie, considered possible relationships between trends in dissolved reactive phosphorus loading and in-lake conditions, determined possible causes for increased soluble phosphorus loading, and evaluated possible management options for reducing soluble phosphorus loading.

To complement these two focus areas, Ohio EPA conducts nearshore monitoring that will provide valuable water quality data to inform management decisions and actions to restore Lake Erie and its tributary streams.

Areas of Concern

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission coordinates management of Ohio's Areas of Concern, specifically the development and implementation of Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for the Maumee, Black, Cuyahoga and Ashtabula river areas of concern.

Lakewide Action and Management Plan

A Lakewide Action and Management Plan, or "LAMP," is a plan of action to assess, restore, protect and monitor the ecosystem health of a Great Lake. It is used to coordinate the work of all the government, tribal and non-government partners working to improve the Lake ecosystem. A public consultation process is used to ensure that the LAMP is addressing the public's concerns.

The Lake Erie LAMP was originally intended to focus on reducing loadings of toxic chemical pollutants to the lake. However, the early participants in the LAMP process felt that other issues were as important as, or more important than, toxics.  Therefore, the Lake Erie LAMP also looks at nutrient loadings, land use, invasive species and exploitation of the lake’s resources. The Lake Erie LAMP should be viewed as a framework to define the management intervention needed to bring Lake Erie back to chemical, physical and biological integrity, and to further define Ohio EPA commitments to those actions.

Over the last 20 years, the Lake Erie ecosystem has undergone changes that have significantly altered the internal dynamics of the lake. These changes have largely been influenced by the influx of zebra and quagga mussels, round gobies and other invasive species. Water quality monitoring indicates that the amount of dissolved (biologically available) phosphorus that is being loaded into the lake in increasing. Algal blooms of cyanobacteria and Cladophora are reappearing at levels comparable to the blooms of the 1960s and 1970s. Microcystis in particular has been causing extensive blooms that seem to get worse in each subsequent year. In 2011, Lake Erie experienced one of the largest cyanobacteria blooms in decades and unlike recent years, the bloom extended outside of the Western Basin and into the Central Basin, affecting the waters near the Cleveland metropolitan area. Of additional concern are the toxins produced by the cyanobacteria that are potentially toxic to humans and animals. The benthic mat forming cyanobacterium Lyngbya wollei began growing profusely in Maumee Bay in 2006 and has now created a nuisance condition in part of the western basin.

Nutrients, particularly phosphorus, appear to be the basis for the deteriorating conditions in Lake Erie. Several approaches have been initiated to address the growing problem with algal blooms in the lake. In 2009, the Lake Erie LAMP Management Committee identified indicator endpoints for total phosphorus in surface water. In 2010, the Lake Erie LAMP published Status of Nutrients in the Lake Erie Basin. The committee is also finalizing a bi-national nutrient management strategy for the lake. Total phosphorus targets for the tributaries were adopted by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 4 Subcommittee in 2015. U.S. EPA and the states published Domestic Action Plans in 2018 committing to implementing actions that will reduce the phosphorus loads and concentrations in the lake.

Where can I find the current LaMP?

What are LaMPs in general?

One of the most significant environmental agreements in the history of the Great Lakes was the signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 (GLWQA), between the United States and Canada.  The GLWQA committed the U.S. and Canada (the Parties) to address the water quality issues of the Great Lakes in a coordinated joint fashion.  The purpose of the GLWQA is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem." One of the recommended actions of the GLWQA is the production of Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) for lake waters, to identify critical pollutants that impair beneficial uses and to develop recommendations, strategies, and policy options to restore these beneficial uses.  A systematic and comprehensive ecosystem approach is to be used to develop LaMPs, including ecosystem objectives, where the state of knowledge permits.  LaMPs are currently underway for Lakes Ontario, Erie, Michigan and Superior.

What is the Lake Erie LaMP?

The Lake Erie LaMP process began in 1995 with the publication of the Lake Erie LaMP Concept Paper (U.S.EPA 1995) that outlines the scope and organizational framework for the LaMP.  The LaMP process has proven to be a resource intensive effort and taken much longer than expected.  In the interest of advancing the rehabilitation of the Great Lakes, and getting information to the public in a timely manner, the Binational Executive Committee (BEC) passed a resolution in 1999 to accelerate the effort.  Accelerate meant that there should be an emphasis on taking action and adopting a streamlined approach to the LaMP document review and approval process.  Steering away from the four-stage process outlined in the GLWQA, BEC recommended a LaMP be prepared every two years based on the current body of knowledge and the remedial actions that can be implemented now.  The concept of adaptive management will be applied to the LaMP so that it can continue to adjust over time to highlight and address the most pertinent issues in Lake Erie.

The result of the BEC decision is a working LaMP 2000 document.  Some sections and the background reports used to produce them have been extensively reviewed, while others have not.  But, it provides a baseline against which to measure the future progress of Lake Erie beneficial use protection and restoration.  The LaMP 2000 contains the following key components:

  • PROBLEM DEFINITION - only 3 beneficial use impairments were not identified in Lake Erie: tainting of fish and wildlife flavor; restrictions on drinking water consumption or taste and odor problems; and added costs to agriculture and industry.  The causes of impairment to date have been identified as: PCBs, mercury, PAHs, lead, chlordane, dioxins, DDE, DDT, mirex, dieldrin, phosphorus, nitrates, E. coli, fecal coliform, non-indigenous species, especially zebra mussels, habitat loss, and sediment loading.
  • POLLUTANTS - mercury and PCBs have been designated as critical pollutants for priority action.  A number of other chemicals, metals, nutrients, bacteria and suspended solids have also been identified as Lake Erie LaMP pollutants of concern.  Existing databases containing information on these substances were reviewed to determine their utility for calculating loads or tracking ambient water column concentrations.  Some of the nutrient data may be sufficient for calculating loads.  But, for the remaining pollutants, LaMP 2000 recommends a source track down approach versus a mass balance approach for reducing contaminant loads to Lake Erie.  Once the most seriously contaminated areas and major sources are identified, the Lake Erie LaMP recommends that available resources and remedial actions be focused immediately on those areas, rather than on further attempts to estimate total loads.
  • HUMAN HEALTH - The GLWQA requires that LaMPs define the threat to human health posed by critical pollutants, singly or in synergistic or additive combination with another substance.  LaMP 2000 describes pathways of exposure, the weight of evidence approach linking environmental exposure to health effects, and suggests a preliminary suite of indicators to measure human health impacts.
  • ACTION PLANS - LaMP 2000 describes several programs already underway that the Lake Erie LaMP can coordinate with to help restore the lake.  These include RAPs, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Binational Toxics Reduction Strategy, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and the Lake Erie in the Millennium initiative.  The last of these is a binational, coordinated effort to identify the management and research needs of the lake, link them, and obtain the resources to complete the most needed research efforts.  In addition, LaMP 2000 outlines preliminary action plans for habitat restoration and PCB and mercury reduction.
  • EMERGING ISSUES - LaMP 2000 addresses significant ongoing and emerging issues including: non-indigenous invasive species, climate change impacts, long range transport of air pollutants, endocrine disrupters, and the concept of overall phosphorus management versus limiting our efforts strictly to managing phosphorus loads.

Who is developing the Lake Erie LaMP?

U.S. EPA Region 5 and Environment Canada are the Federal co-leads.  In the United States, the State of Ohio is the lead State, with participation from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.  In Canada, participating agencies are the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Agriculture Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy.

The participation of 20 agencies representing two countries, four states, and a province, and the interested public (including the Lake Erie Binational Forum), will ultimately lead to a Lake Erie LaMP that all of the partners can commit to implementing.

Lake Erie Monitoring

Building on the 2010 National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA) Ohio EPA launched the Comprehensive Nearshore Monitoring Program in 2011 using funding under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The project was designed over a three-year cycle to develop methods, gain expertise and build a baseline for water quality conditions in nearshore areas of Lake Erie. The experience gained served as the impetus to integrate annual Lake Erie nearshore monitoring into Ohio’s statewide strategy. 

The data generated by this project supports several state and federal initiatives. Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act require authorized states to submit biennial reports on the general condition of waters of the state and to develop a prioritized list of those that are not meeting goals. Ohio EPA's Division of Surface Water (DSW) submits the Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report (Integrated Report) to fulfill this requirement. The report summarizes the status of select beneficial uses based on the assessment unit framework. 

Nearshore monitoring objectives:

  • Provide credible aquatic life and water quality data.
  • Support Integrated Report beneficial use assessments.
  • Support AOC beneficial use assessment and de-listing. 
  • Track nutrient concentrations against interim substance objectives.
  • Evaluate minimum dissolved oxygen levels in the hypolimnion of the Central Basin.
  • Monitor burrowing Mayfly populations as an indicator of eutrophication. 
  • Collect algal community composition and biomass information.
  • Support Cyanotoxin advisory database. 

2022 Monitoring

More detailed information can be found on the Statewide Biological and Water Quality Assessment page.