Stabenow Applauds New USDA Initiative to Improve Water Quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin

Monday, March 28, 2016

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, applauded the United States Department of Agriculture’s announcement of a new initiative to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The Initiative – led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – will complement ongoing conservation efforts in the region and invest more than $40 million in the watershed over the next three years. That funding is in addition to the $36 million USDA has already made available through the 2014 Farm Bill for a total of $77 million.

“The algae blooms in Lake Erie that shut down Toledo’s water system in 2014 are a wake-up call about why investments in conservation are critically important to the health of our Great Lakes and drinking water,” said Senator Stabenow.  “Threats of future outbreaks are still a reality. This funding builds on the historic investments we made in the 2014 Farm Bill and makes sure that there is coordinated, long-term strategy to address these threats.”

Today’s announcement follows a call by Senator Stabenow, as well as Senate Agriculture Committee members Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), in July 2015 to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. They urged the USDA to develop additional, long-term strategies – in partnership with local farmers and producers – to help improve water quality in the basin. 

According to USDA, the Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative will focus on four key areas to help protect and improve water quality in Lake Erie: avoiding excess nutrient application, controlling nutrient and sediment movement, trapping nutrient and sediment losses, and managing hydrological pathways to reduce nutrient and sediment losses.

These efforts will complement the ongoing Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative which was funded through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program created in Stabenow’s 2014 Farm Bill. That partnership, which is the largest Regional Conservation Partnership Project in the country with over $17 million in funding, is working with farmers and producers throughout the watershed to reduce phosphorus and sediment runoff to help reduce toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie.   

Stabenow is a strong advocate for the Great Lakes. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force and as Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she is focused on threats to our Great Lakes including nuclear waste, algae blooms, pipeline safety, invasive species, microbeads, harbor maintenance, and sufficient funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.