State unveils new plan for Lake Erie water quality improvement

Photo of a 2011 algae bloom on Lake Erie by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon -- NASA

LANSING—Michigan state government has released a draft Adaptive Management Plan that will inform decisions and guide projects outlined in the Domestic Action Plan for Lake Erie, a targeted approach for improving water quality and reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake by 40 percent by 2025.

Decreasing phosphorus inputs is intended to help reduce harmful algal blooms—caused when an overgrowth of algae produces toxins that can affect aquatic life, recreation, and the quality of drinking water.

“Michigan is surrounded by freshwater, and it is our job to take care of this resource, especially in the Western Lake Erie Basin where harmful algal blooms affect public health and our economy,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “In June, I recommitted to reducing phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. It’s going to be a challenge to make the needed improvements to hit that commitment, but I will continue to push the state and our regional counterparts to use all the best management practices available to meet this challenge.”

The draft Adaptive Management Plan is available at

The state will be accepting public comments about the plan from now through March 24. Comments are accepted via the following:

  • Email to
  • Mail to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Water Resources Division
    Attn: Lake Erie AM DAP
    P.O. Box 30458
    Lansing, MI 48909
  • In person at a public information meeting
    Monday, March 16, 2020
    6-8 p.m.
    Jones Hall, Baer Auditorium (Room 110)
    Adrian College
    112 S. Charles St.
    Adrian, MI 49221
  • Call into the public webinar from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 19. To register, go to

The Lake Erie Adaptive Management Plan is a collaborative effort between the state departments of Agriculture and Rural Development; Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; and Natural Resources. The plan describes the status of water quality in Michigan’s portion of the Lake Erie Basin, outlines state actions to achieve nutrient reduction targets, and summarizes progress to date on achieving Michigan’s 40 percent phosphorous reduction goal.

According to MDARD Director Gary McDowell, Michigan’s Adaptive Management Plan allows the state to capitalize on current research projects.

“Adaptive management is a ‘learning by doing’ approach,” said McDowell. “We can test and evaluate projects outlined in our plan now, see what is working and what is not working, and then take corrective actions. We want to ensure the best outcomes for Lake Erie, and this plan will help us to do that.”

The adaptive management approach will inform and improve best management practices for phosphorous reduction and target the most effective locations for their use. Increased promotion of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and reinstatement of the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in targeted watersheds will provide support for implementing these practices.

The plan also supports the reduction of combined sewer overflows and the adoption of other agricultural conservation practices.

“The long-term health of the Great Lakes is vital to our way of life in Michigan,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “Michigan’s comprehensive approach to phosphorous reduction in Lake Erie will ensure a sustainable fishery, clean drinking water and safe recreational opportunities are available for future generations of residents and visitors.”

Since the Domestic Action Plan was finalized in 2018, the state has reached some milestones. Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2019-14 reaffirming Michigan’s efforts to protect Lake Erie and implement the Domestic Action Plan. In 2019, the Great Lakes Water Authority met its phosphorous reduction targets. Also, EGLE has initiated several water monitoring projects in Michigan’s portion of the Maumee River watershed.

“While we have made some progress, such as reducing phosphorus loads from wastewater treatment plants, there is a lot more work that needs to be done,” said EGLE Director Liesl Clark. “Reaching our goal of a healthy Lake Erie is going to take some time. Using the Adaptive Management Plan, we can evaluate our progress along the way and adjust as we go to make sure the Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan is completed properly and protects public health and the environment.”

Michigan continues to work with the states of Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York; the Province of Ontario; Environment and Climate Change Canada; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on reducing the nutrient loading into Lake Erie through Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Annex 4, a binational group working to improve water quality in Lake Erie. To learn more about the group, visit

For more information on what Michigan is doing in the Western Lake Erie Basin or to view the Adaptive Management Plan, visit

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