WBEZ | enviroment http://www.wbez.org/tags/enviroment Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: Community Cloud Forest Conservation update on saving Guatemala's forests http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-community-cloud-forest-conservation-update-saving-guatemalas <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cloud forest.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.cloudforestconservation.org/">Community Cloud Forest Conservation</a> says it works to alleviate poverty and protect Guatemala&rsquo;s tropical cloud forests. The organization supports a range of projects that include education, reforestation, community development and bird monitoring. They teamed up with Chicago bird conservationists to protect the winter home of the birds that migrate through Chicago.<em> </em></p><p>For our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism"><em>Global Activism</em></a> segment, <em>Worldview </em>catches up with Rob Cahill, the organization&#39;s founder and Judy Pollock, the director of <a href="http://chicagoregion.audubon.org/birds-wildlife">Bird Conservation</a> for the <a href="http://chicagoregion.audubon.org/">Audubon Chicago Region</a>.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/116888274" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 24 Oct 2013 09:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-community-cloud-forest-conservation-update-saving-guatemalas Wisconsin wetlands seen as threat to jobs http://www.wbez.org/content/wisconsin-wetlands-seen-threat-jobs <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-17/wetlandspoof.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" id="soundslider" height="489" width="550"><param name="movie" value="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/multimedia/wetlandsWBEZ/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=550&amp;embed_height=489"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><param name="quality" value="high"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="menu" value="false"><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" menu="false" quality="high" src="http://www.wisconsinwatch.org/multimedia/wetlandsWBEZ/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=550&amp;embed_height=489" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="489" width="550"></object></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Throughout the Great Lakes region, a swampy, unassuming grassland habitat known as a wetland plays a vital role in preserving the Great Lakes ecosystem.<br><br>Wetlands act as natural filters, cleaning Great Lakes water, and mitigating flooding while providing wildlife habitat.<br><br>But over the past two centuries, most of the region’s wetlands were paved over and destroyed until environmental laws were enacted to protect what was left.<br><br> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><p><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/graphic-wisconsin-wetlands-and-political-contributions-94141"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-18/WetlandsGraphPic.jpg" style="width: 150px; height: 142px; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 15px; border-width: 3px; border-style: solid;" title=""></a></p><ul><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/graphic-wisconsin-wetlands-and-political-contributions-94141"><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);"><strong>GRAPH: </strong></span><strong>Wisconsin wetlands and politcal contributions</strong></a></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/imadeajob"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">INTERACT: </span>Made a job? Tell us about it</strong></a></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/food-tourism-sparks-farming-renaissance">Great Lakes foodie tourists</a></strong></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>Today, with the region mired in economic crisis, new pressures are arising to fill in remaining wetlands for development.<br><br>This debate is now playing out in the state of Wisconsin, which in 2001 enacted what George Meyer, former head of the state Department of Natural Resources, calls “the strongest wetland protections in the country.”<br><br>Early this year, the state Legislature exempted a small wetland in the shadow of Lambeau Field, home of the world champion Green Bay Packers, from the process in place for every other wetland in the state.<br><br>This fall, Republican Gov. Scott Walker proposed a package of bills called “Back to Work Wisconsin.” These included a proposed revamping of the state’s rules regarding wetlands preservation. This will likely make it easier to fill in wetlands deemed of marginal quality in exchange for mitigation -- the creation of new wetlands of supposedly superior quality.<br><br>That has some environmentalists worrying that Wisconsin could go from being a national leader in wetlands protections to being on the leading edge of efforts to roll those protections back, in the name of job creation.<br><br>For the birds<br><br>Gildo Tori, public policy director of nonprofit Ducks Unlimited’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says his group is keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Wisconsin.<br><br>“Wisconsin produces a lot of ducks,” Tori says. He cites data showing that ducks banded in Wisconsin were shot by hunters in more than 25 other states, as well as a study that found waterfowl hunters nationally generate billions of dollars of economic activity and support tens of thousands of jobs that, notes Tori, “can’t be exported.”<br><br>Wisconsin’s 2001 law, which passed both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature unanimously, plugged a loophole in federal wetlands regulation created by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The law extended state protections to isolated wetlands, those unconnected to any navigable waterway. Tori calls these wetlands “really critical from a waterfowl perspective.”<br><br>Wisconsin once had 10 million acres of wetlands, approximately 50 percent of which have been destroyed. Other Great Lakes states have fared even worse: Illinois, Indiana and Ohio have each divested between 85 and 90 percent of their original wetlands stock.<br><br><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-17/property.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; float: left; margin: 2px 10px;" title="The Bergstrom property, in the shadow of Lambeau Field, has been called “one of the best urban wetlands” in Wisconsin. (Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism)">In passing the exemption for up to three acres of the so-called Bergstrom wetland near Lambeau Field, GOP legislators framed the issue in terms of jobs versus excessive regulation.<br><br>“This situation is the poster child for what’s wrong with state policy and how it prevents development and the creation of jobs in this state,” said state Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican from Richland Center.<br><br>And state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Wisconsin Rapids, chided opponents for “keeping job creation on the back burner in lieu of getting bureaucrats their lifetime achievement awards.”<br><br>Tom Larson, vice president of legal and public affairs for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, says current rules “don’t differentiate between different sizes and qualities of wetlands,” and that property owners must go through too many hoops before they can seek permission to infill. “Unfortunately, many projects never move forward or are dramatically scaled back.”<br><br>The Realtors Association, says Larson, would like mitigation to be considered early in the process “if there is a net environmental benefit.” He believes it’s possible to create new wetlands that are as good or better than the ones they replace.<br><br>Is mitigation the answer?<br><br><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-17/ErinObrien.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; margin: 2px 10px; float: left;" title="Erin O’Brien of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, walking in a Madison urban wetland, calls the choice between jobs and wetlands preservation “a false dichotomy.” (Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism)">Erin O’Brien, policy director for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, a Madison-based nonprofit group, calls this argument “a really good sales pitch.” But she’s not buying it: “A lot of the wetlands that are being restored these days are open water ponds, as opposed to historically intact systems.”<br><br>Some wetland types, like bogs and fens, cannot be recreated at all, says O’Brien. And while her group is not dead-set against infilling, when necessary, even the best-case scenario involves the loss of wetlands in their current location.<br><br>Moreover, there is disagreement over what constitutes a worthy wetland.<br><br>“People will talk about how they support wetlands,” sighs O’Brien. “Then they’ll say, ‘But this wetland’s really a dog.’ ” More aggravating still, the wetlands dismissed in this fashion were typically degraded by human activity.<br><br>That’s certainly true of the Bergstrom wetland. About a decade ago, about half the 21-acre parcel was filled in. The most visible areas, along the disturbed periphery, have been taken over by a tall billowy invasive called Phragmites, or common reed.<br><br><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-17/Bud%20Harris.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; margin: 2px 10px; float: left;" title="Bud Harris, professor emeritus of natural and applied sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, is surrounded by an invasive species at a Green Bay wetland. (Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism)">“I suspect to an average person it’s not all that attractive,” admits Bud Harris, professor emeritus of natural and applied sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “People don’t see the functional value.”<br><br>A DNR wildlife biologist who visited the site found that it contained sedges and rare plants, as well as sandhill cranes, mourning doves and woodcocks. “This is one of the best urban wetlands in my tenure and deserves to remain functional and intact," he wrote in his report.<br><br>Despite such concerns, the project was green-lighted by a DNR higher-up. The Wetlands Association challenged this decision, but the exemption was passed before a hearing was held.<br><br>Ironically, the retailer named as a possible tenant has disclaimed interest in the property. Larry Whiteley, a spokesman for the Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops, says his conservation-minded company had one “one casual phone call from somebody on that property” and didn’t know it was a wetland. He’s still bitter about “the crucifixion we took for something we didn’t do.”<br><br>Paul Kent, an attorney for Bergstrom, says the plan is still to land “destination retail” at the site. But nine months after the exemption was granted, no development has occurred.<br><br>O’Brien calls the choice between jobs and wetlands preservation “a false dichotomy.” She argues that, under current law, “there are many development projects around the state that have been developed while also avoiding and minimizing the impacts to wetlands.”<br><br>Todd Ambs, formerly the DNR’s water division administrator, agrees, saying “applicants that work with the department can often find a middle ground where they can complete the project and protect the environment.”<br><br>Beyond that, Ambs, now president of the national River Network in Portland, Ore., knows of&nbsp; no case “where wetland mitigation and human restoration of a wetland can adequately compensate for destroying a wetland that Mother Nature took 10,000 years to create.”<br><br><em>Bill Lueders is the Money and Politics Project director at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The project, a partnership of the Center and MapLight, is supported by the Open Society Institute.<br><br>The nonprofit and nonpartisan Center (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Television, Wisconsin Public Radio and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and other news media. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.</em><br><br>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 18 Nov 2011 13:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/wisconsin-wetlands-seen-threat-jobs 'The alewives are coming! The alewives are coming!' http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-07-07/alewives-are-coming-alewives-are-coming-88625 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-07/Alewife fish_Flickr_The B&#039;s.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's summer. We're all enjoying the great outdoors, and some of us are going to the beach. But go back to 1967, and check out <em>Time</em> magazine for today's date, July 7. Chicagoans were battling the alewives.</p><p>An alewife is a type of herring.&nbsp; It's about 7 inches long and weighs a few ounces. The largest concentration of alewives is in the waters off New England. There's even a major street in Cambridge, Mass named Alewife Parkway.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-01/Alewife.jpg" style="width: 419px; height: 196px; margin: 5px;" title=""></p><p>Anyway, during the 1930s, these alewives got into Lake Michigan. Their numbers stayed small because a bigger fish--the trout--would eat the alewives. But then the sea lamprey came along and ate the trout. Sea lampreys don't eat alewives. That left the lake with all these alewives, and no predator.</p><p>The alewife population grew and grew. By the 1960s there were so many of them in the waters around Chicago they became national news. <em>Time</em> was only one of the media outlets that reported the story.</p><p>To be fair, the alewives weren't much of a problem as long as they swam around in deep water and went about their business. The trouble came when they reached the end of their life span. Then we got the grand Alewife Die-Off.</p><p>This became an annual Chicago event, like the swallows returning to Capistrano. One day there'd be a few dead alewives drifting in toward shore. The next day more would arrived. Soon their bodies would be clogging the shallow water or washing up onto the beach.</p><p>Of course, those alewives would be decaying, and you can imagine the smell--well, you probably don't want to. The flies would swarm in and the beaches would be a mess. The city would have to use tractors and bulldozers to clear off the sand.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-01/Beach.jpg" style="width: 425px; height: 242px; margin: 5px;" title=""></p><p>Nobody knows how many dead alewives there were in any one year. Experts said hundreds of millions, maybe a billion. A pilot flying over Lake Michigan saw a ribbon of drifting alewife carcasses 40 miles long.</p><p>Eventually the federal government started putting salmon into the lake. The alewife population went down. Now Chicagoans could once again use the beaches in summer.</p><p>But lately we've been hearing about the Asian carp. If that thing gets into the lake, scientists say it will force out the salmon. With the salmon gone, what will happen next?</p><p>Maybe it's time to start working on a screenplay for a new disaster movie. Call it "Return of the Alewives."</p></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-07-07/alewives-are-coming-alewives-are-coming-88625 Postcard: Scientists climb into bald eagle nests to measure health of the Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/content/postcard-scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes <p><p><em>Biologists with the National Park Service are in their sixth year of visiting eagle nests on Lake Superior for blood and feather samples that help them monitor the level of toxic pollutants in the lake</em></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/25677824?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="513" frameborder="0" height="341" scrolling="no"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://vimeo.com/25677824">Feisty is good</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/wbez">WBEZ</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p><p>Jim Spickler is wearing an orange hardhat and hanging on a climbing rope 100 feet up in a white pine tree on Basswood Island in Lake Superior.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; } div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted #aa211d; border-top-width: 1px; border-top-style: dotted; border-top-color: #aa211d; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; } ul { margin-left: 15px; } li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-repeat-x: no-repeat; background-repeat-y: no-repeat; background-position: 0 5px; background-position-x: 0px; background-position-y: 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/FNC-inset-promo.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 50px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249">Runaway Algae</a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-23/front-and-center-how-chicagos-excrement-killing-fish-gulf-mexico-88234">How Chicago's excrement is killing fish in the Gulf of Mexico </a></strong></li><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-21/how-likely-fear-west-could-steal-great-lakes-water-88162">Could the West steal Great Lakes Water? </a></strong></li></ul><p><strong>SLIDESHOW</strong></p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-14/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-88094"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-June/2011-06-28/img_1542.jpg" style="width: 120px; height: 90px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title=""></a><p 12="" font-size:=""><br> <strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-14/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-88094">&nbsp;J.W. Westcott,</a></strong><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-87236"><br> Detroit's floating<br> post office</a></strong><br> &nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postcard-detroits-floating-post-office-87236"> </a></strong></p></div></div><p>“Good morning, Mr. Eagle,” he says to a fuzzy brown bird sitting on the six-foot-wide jumble of sticks that serves as the eaglet’s nest. Spickler is a wildlife biologist and an expert climber from northern California where he works in giant redwood trees. It’s his job to gently stuff the eaglet into a sack and bring it to the ground for a quick checkup. The eaglet is only seven weeks old, but it’s already the size of a small goose, and it has formidable talons attached to its bright yellow feet.Waiting for Spickler on the ground is Bill Route, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program, which keeps tabs on the wellbeing of plants and animals on Park Service land.&nbsp; Route heads up this survey of eagle nests.“Eagles are a success story,” Route says. “Their numbers are increasing.”</p><p>Route says there were no eagles at all nesting on the Great Lakes in the late 1960s, thanks in part to the insecticide DDT, which left the eagle’s eggs perilously thin and nearly wiped the birds out. But DDT was banned in 1972, and eagles started to bounce back. They were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.</p><p>“We still find traces of DDT in eagles,” Route says. “It’s very persistent. And that’s what we’re worried about: persistent, toxic chemicals that accumulate up the food chain.”</p><p>Like some flame-retardant and stain resistant chemicals. The scientists will screen the eaglet’s blood for those, too.</p><p>“Eagles are a sentinel species,” Route says.&nbsp; “They get this magnification. Since bald eagles sit on top of the food chain, they get a lot of the contaminant because they eat other organisms that are also contaminated.”</p><p>As Route is talking, Jim Spickler descends the climbing rope with the eaglet. They draw a blood sample from the bird and make some measurements. The eaglet hisses at them and makes some klutzy attempts at biting their hands. In minutes, Spickler is on his way back up the rope to put the eaglet back on its nest.</p><p>Two adult eagles circle above the trees letting out a steady stream of cries. The sound is surprisingly thin and high-pitched for a bird with a seven-foot wingspan. The biologists say adult eagles can be noisy, but they rarely attack humans. The adults will be back on the nest soon after the humans leave.</p><p>A few minutes later, the eaglet is in its nest and Jim Spickler is on the ground.</p><p>“It’s a little bit of a feisty chick,” he says as he starts packing his climbing gear. “But that means that it’s well fed and it’s likely to survive. So, mission accomplished.”</p><ul></ul></p> Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/postcard-scientists-climb-bald-eagle-nests-measure-health-great-lakes Runaway algae returns to Lake Erie http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/frontandcenter/photo/2011-06-23/88249/2009 Algal Bloom Stone Lab 001 (8).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>READ: Toxic Water, Part 1,&nbsp; </strong><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-22/anniversary-cuyahoga-fires-igniting-environmental-movement-88161">Anniversary of Cuyahoga fires igniting environmental movement </a></strong></p><p>Runaway algae blooms that killed fish and fouled beaches in the 1970's have been making a comeback on Lake Erie – and they're showing up now in other Great Lakes.&nbsp; Until recently, they didn't get much attention, but the problems have been getting worse.&nbsp; After years of research, scientists think they've finally pinpointed the source of the blooms.&nbsp; But they worry it won't be as easy to fix this time around.</p><p>There's no sign yet of algae in the muddy water here at the mouth of the Maumee River in Toledo on western Lake Erie.&nbsp; But it's late spring and Tom Bridgeman knows it's coming, “It's getting worse, the last couple years have been really bad.”</p><p>Bridgeman is a researcher at the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center. He's been watching the algae come back every year since he first saw the satellite image of a massive algae bloom in 2003. “It started near the mouth of the Maumee River, so several hundred square kilometers was covered by this bloom,” &nbsp;says Bridgeman, “It looked like a scum of bright green paint on the surface of the water.&nbsp; And as boats went through it...you could see them cutting trails through this sort of green scum on the surface.”</p><p>The scum is Microcystis, a toxic form of blue-green algae that can give you cramps and diarrhea if you swallow it and can also cause a nasty skin rash.&nbsp; The toxins accumulate in the livers of fish, but Bridgeman says so far fish don't seem to be affected, nor are people who eat them.&nbsp; But the algae does have an impact on Toledo's drinking water, which comes from Lake Erie. “I've heard that the city of Toledo spends an extra 3 or 4-thousand dollars per day in extra filtration costs during an algal bloom,” says Bridgeman.</p><p>Bridgeman says it's wreaking havoc with sport fishing and tourism on the lake.&nbsp; And more people are staying away.&nbsp; Bridgeman says the algae smells even worse than it looks, “Especially when it washes up on shore and starts to dry out and decompose, it really has sort of a fishy, you know, garbage-y sort of odor.”</p><p>Bridgeman's research is crucial to helping predict the blooms and their severity.&nbsp;&nbsp; Many forms of algae are a natural and necessary nutrient for fish, but they can get out of control when their food source is ramped up by human activity.&nbsp;</p><p>In the last few years toxic algae has also been showing up along beaches in Lake Ontario.&nbsp; And in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, thick blankets of non-toxic, nuisance algae often coat the shoreline.&nbsp; Scientist and educator Jeff Reutter is head of Ohio Sea Grant. &nbsp;He's spent his entire career working on Lake Erie issues.&nbsp; Standing near Cleveland's Lake Erie harbor, Reutter remembers when algae as thick as pea soup bloomed in the lake in the 1970's., “The breakwall here, a little bit east of where we're standing, someone had painted on the breakwall, 'Help me, I'm dying' and signed it 'Lake Erie.'”</p><p>Reutter says in fresh water, phosphorus is the nutrient that algae needs to grow.&nbsp; Too much causes rampant blooms. Reutter says cutbacks of phosphorus from laundry detergents and sewage treatment plants nearly a generation ago seemed to solve the problem.&nbsp; Reutter believes the return of algae blooms is a sign that Lake Erie is once again sick, “The big concern I have is that I feel like I started with Lake Erie really bad.&nbsp; Huge improvements brought about by the mid-1980's.&nbsp; And unfortunately, since 1995, it's been going downhill ever since.”</p><p>Reutter says the mid-90's was when dead zones - much like those in the Gulf Mexico - started showing up again in Lake Erie.&nbsp; Dead zones form when decaying algae blooms use up oxygen in the water, forcing fish and other wildife to migrate – or die.&nbsp; So scientists like Pete Richards, a researcher at the National Water Quality Research Center at Ohio's Heidelberg University, have been working to solve the phosphorus mystery.&nbsp; Richards thinks he's found the answer. “When 80-percent of the land use in a watershed is agriculture, it's almost inevitable that a major source of the phosphorus loading is going to be from the agricultural fields,” says Richards.</p><p>Richards worked on the investigating team with the Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force, which last year released new recommendations about how and when farmers should fertilize their fields “In some senses, the fixes are obvious.&nbsp; You don't do it in the fall, you get it underground, rather than on the surface.&nbsp; But for every obvious fix, there's a good reason why it doesn't get done,” says Richards. He says he task force recommends fertilizing in the spring, when plants will use it up.</p><p>At a farm about 50-miles south of Lake Erie, dairy farmer Ted Sonnenberg says it isn't always possible to follow the recommendations – like this spring when he saw record-breaking rainfall, “There aren't enough good days in the spring.&nbsp; We have not been able to touch the fields behind the dairy, because they're too wet.”</p><p>A recent study by Ohio State University found 30-percent of Ohio's farmland has too much phosphorus.&nbsp; With federal money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Sonnenberg&nbsp; is reducing the phosphorus output of his dairy by building new ponds to store the manure.</p><p>Sonnenberg is trying to be more sustainable, but many farmers aren't.&nbsp; And some researchers admit they're not sure that voluntary compliance from farmers will be enough to reduce the phosphorus that's feeding Lake Erie algae.&nbsp; There are other things that may help.&nbsp; Last year, 16-states, including Ohio and six other Great Lakes states, passed bans on phosphorus in dishwasher detergents.&nbsp; And several manufacturers, like Scotts, have removed phosphorus from their lawncare products.</p><p>For now, algae blooms will likely continue to plague Lake Erie and its shoreline.&nbsp; And that worries Toledo resident Alli Weber whenever she swims here at Maumee Bay State Park, a few miles east of Toledo.&nbsp; Weber and her 3-year old daughter Lillian enjoy cooling off in Lake Erie, but not when smelly mats of algae wash ashore.<br> <br> “I don't like it,” says Webber, “ I don't know if it's safe.&nbsp; Especially when I bring her, because she, like, touches it and I don't like that.”</p><p>This summer, Ohio health officials unveiled a new website that tells swimmers and boaters where algae blooms are located and how to avoid getting sick from them. Scientists say if they can figure out solutions, the lakes will recover quickly.&nbsp; But if the blooms get worse, the impacts on human health and the environment could grow.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 15:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-06-23/runaway-algae-returns-lake-erie-88249