Kaptur Statement on NOAA Harmful Algal Bloom Forecast for Western Lake Erie
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, released the following statement after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research partners announced their forecast that western Lake Erie will experience a moderate harmful algal bloom this summer.
In its statement issued today, NOAA stated, “this year’s bloom is expected to measure 4.5 on the severity index – among the smaller blooms since 2011 – but could possibly range between 4 and 5.5, compared to 7.3 last year. An index above 5 indicates the more severe blooms.”
“Harmful algal blooms, which have plagued the waters of western Lake Erie and its tributaries for the last decade, are a painful reminder that more has to be done at the federal, state, and local level to protect and restore our beloved Lake Erie,” said Rep. Kaptur. “While I’m thankful that this year’s bloom will be less severe than in years past, we cannot be idle. That’s why in Congress, I’m fighting to secure significantly more funding for the invaluable Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Science and environmental stewardship will be our guide to properly protect and restore Lake Erie and its tributaries. I thank NOAA for its partnership in the fight against harmful algal blooms and to make Lake Erie a cleaner, healthier environment for all.”
Lake Erie blooms consist of cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, capable of producing the liver toxin microcystin which poses a risk to human and wildlife health. Such blooms may result in higher costs for cities and local governments that need to treat drinking water, prevent people from enjoying fishing, swimming, boating and visiting the shoreline, and harm the region’s vital summer economy. These effects will vary in location and severity due to winds that may concentrate or dissipate the bloom, but they are notoriously the worst in the western basin.
The draft Interior Appropriations bill, which is slated for approval by the House Appropriations Committee on July 10, 2020, proposes a $15 million increase for GLRI. The House of Representatives also recently approved H.R. 4031, the GLRI Act of 2019, which Rep. Kaptur introduced to increase funding for the GLRI through 2026.
The severity index is based on the bloom's biomass – the amount of algae – over a sustained period. The largest blooms occurred in 2011, (severity index of 10) and 2015 (severity index of 10.5). NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada and its other partners have set a goal of 3, which was last seen in 2012.
The size of a bloom isn’t necessarily an indication of how toxic it is. For example, the toxins in a large bloom may not be as concentrated as in a smaller bloom. Each algal bloom is unique in terms of size, toxicity, and ultimately its impact on local communities. NOAA is actively developing tools to detect and predict how toxic blooms will be.