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TMDL effort for Lake Erie to be led by Ohio EPA

Last week, Governor Mike DeWine announced the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (OEPA) intention to create a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Western Lake Erie.

Under the Clean Water Act, a TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a substance (in this case phosphorus) that is allowed to enter a body of water and meet water quality standards for that pollutant. The TMDL sets a reduction goal for that pollutant for each source, such as agriculture, municipal wastewater, developed land, and septic systems.The Clean Water Act directs the state to submit a 303(d) list to U.S. EPA every two years. A TMDL must be developed for all waters identified by a state on their 303(d) list of impaired waters, according to a priority ranking on the list.

In 2018, OEPA listed the open waters of the Western Lake Erie Basin as impaired but did not commit to developing a TMDL. Once the open waters were listed, there was no question about whether a TMDL would be created, it became a question of when and whether U.S. EPA or OEPA would oversee its development. Most of the Western Basin, and significant portions of watersheds throughout Ohio, are already slated for TMDL development or operating under a current TMDL developed by the state.

The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) and the Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) made the following statement in reaction to the announcement.

“While OCWGA and OSA do not believe a TMDL is the best way to advance the goals that have been set for Lake Erie, we recognize that an Ohio-led TMDL with state-wide stakeholder input is better than one developed at the federal level. We appreciate Governor DeWine’s leadership on water quality and his commitment to supporting farmers through significant state funding in H2Ohio. Our organizations will continue to advocate for the best interests of our growers and will communicate developments with you to keep you informed on this issue.

“Ohio’s corn, soybean, and small grain farmers have been working for over a decade to do their part in addressing water quality issues in Lake Erie by investing millions of their own dollars, implementing new conservation practices on their operations, and working closely with other agricultural organizations, universities, and environmental groups. Additionally, there is tremendous momentum among farmers to make new programs, such as H2Ohio and the Ohio Agricultural Conservation Initiative, successful.”

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