Major harmful algae blooms are expected this summer on western Lake Erie, according to the second-ever Lake Erie algae forecast that was released on Tuesday.
The potentially toxic blooms will likely be more severe than 2012 and far milder than 2011, said Dr. Rick Stumpf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science in a teleconference.
Last year was a dry year and the algal bloom was among the mildest ever in Lake Erie. In 2011, a wet year, the problem was the worst in decades.
Stumpf said this year’s blooms, likely to appear in late August through October, will likely be significant with cyanobacteria, a toxic blue-green algae.
He said the blooms this summer will be like in 2003 and will be in between 2011 and 2012 in magnitude.
He said this year’s blooms will be only 20 percent as large as those in 2011 that covered the lake as far east as Cleveland.
Winds also affect the movement of the algae on Lake Erie, Stumpf said.
Stumpf was one of five scientists from NOAA and Heidelberg University in Tiffin who were involved in developing the forecast that is based on spring runoff data and computer modeling.
His agency will also issue weekly bulletins to update the public on the algae threat on Lake Erie.
Ohio and federal agencies will monitor the algae from boats on the lake and from satellites, he said.
Other agencies involved in the algae fight are the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio State University’s Sea Grant Program and Stone Laboratory and the University of Toledo.
Rainy weather from March through June in northwest Ohio can trigger the problem by washing farm phosphorus from fertilizers into the Maumee River. It empties into Lake Erie and feeds the algae.
Officials had worried that a wetter-than-usual spring could make the algae problem mushroom later this year.
Such blooms were common in the 1960s and 1970s. They disappeared for 20 years, reappearing in 2002.
They can create oxygen-depleted dead zones where nothing can live, and the nerve toxins they excrete can sicken swimmers and kill pets and wildlife.
The blooms are considered a major threat to Lake Erie’s $10 billion annual sport-fishing and tourism industries.
A coalition of farm groups on Tuesday announced that they are working with federal and state agencies to curtail farm runoff that hurts Ohio waterways.
Tadd Nicholson of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and Kirk Merritt of the Ohio Soybean Council said Ohio farm groups have provided in excess of $1 million to conduct on-farm testing to help deal with the fertilizer runoff problem.
The key is to apply the right kind of fertilizer at the right time in the right place and in the right amount, they said.
Ohio is also looking at imposing new rules on farmers to reduce farm runoff.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.