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New monitoring in WLEB meant to improve water quality outcomes

A new project in the Western Lake Erie Basin will monitor sediment and nutrient movement in targeted watersheds.

Alliance for the Great Lakes Agriculture & Restoration Policy Director Tom Zimnicki tells Brownfield the partnership stems from the organization’s Cost to Meet Water Quality Goals report.

“I think it’s an important first step in getting a better understanding of what’s going on in the basin on Michigan side,” he says.

The 2023 report says Michigan needs to spend up to $65 million per year on conservation to reduce total phosphorus entering the Western Basin of Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025 as agreed to by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada.

The nearly $5.5 million project will track water quality in five priority sub watersheds in Michigan that flow into Lake Erie through 2029.

Zimnicki says the monitoring installations should be in place by this summer, in collaboration with local county governments and participating farmers.

“What the numbers really show is that we really can’t get there with just those annual in-field practices, that we also need to incorporate what we would call structural practices—so things like buffer strips, two-stage ditches,” he explains.

He says the data will be utilized to better understand how land management and weather events effect water quality.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is funding a $4.86 million grant for the project, which also includes a $600,000 grant from the Erb Family Foundation and technical assistance from the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research and LimnoTech.

AUDIO: Tom Zimnicki, Alliance for the Great Lakes

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