Grants aimed at reducing runoff into Lake Erie

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TOLEDO, Ohio — Farm­ers in 20 Ohio coun­ties of the Lake Erie wa­ter­shed will be able to walk into a county fed­eral con­ser­va­tion agency of­fice to­day and ap­ply for grants pay­ing $57 per acre to plant win­ter crops to keep fer­til­izer from wash­ing into the riv­ers.

U.S. Sen. Sher­rod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S Rep. Marcy Kap­tur, D-Toledo, an­nounced the $2 mil­lion emer­gency fund Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence near the Maumee River at the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Great Lakes in East Toledo.

They said the money will make a dent in the flow of fer­til­izer and ma­nure that is feed­ing the late-sum­mer al­gae blooms that threaten Toledo’s wa­ter sup­ply. It was an al­gae bloom that shut down Toledo’‍s wa­ter sup­ply Aug. 2.

Both Mr. Brown and Miss Kap­tur stressed the $2 mil­lion grant is just a por­tion of what needs to be ac­com­plished to end the dan­ger­ous flow of phos­pho­rous into Lake Erie.

The $2 mil­lion will be spread over some 30,000 acres in 20 coun­ties, Mr. Brown said. Mr. Brown and Miss Kap­tur are try­ing to pass a re­lated $20 mil­lion con­ser­va­tion pro­gram for Ohio, Mich­i­gan, and In­di­ana. Mr. Brown said he helped to es­tab­lish a pro­gram in the 2014 Farm Bill to pro­vide up to $1.2 bil­lion for farm­ers to im­ple­ment con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, in­clud­ing those that could re­duce run­off into Lake Erie.

Farm­ers are go­ing to be paid to plant cover crops like clo­vers, al­falfa, rye, wild rad­ish, wheat, oats, other crops, to hold back nu­tri­ents so they don’t leach out, Miss Kap­tur said.

Terry Cosby, con­ser­va­tion­ist for the state Nat­u­ral Re­sources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice, said grow­ing win­ter crops makes the ground ab­sorb fer­til­izer and ma­nure bet­ter than when they are spread on hard ground. He at­trib­uted the grow­ing al­gae prob­lem to cli­mate change.

The Block News Al­liance con­sists of the Pitts­burgh Post-Ga­zette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a re­porter for The Blade.

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