The New York Times article regarding the regulation of phosphorus within the Lake Erie watershed, is of interest to those of us living in the Sodus Bay Watershed only to the extent that it influences the phosphorus levels in Lake Ontario off Sodus Bay; the Niagara River provides 80% of Lake Ontario’s water.

New York State has already outlawed phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, except for new plantings, flower and vegetable gardens. Phosphorus has been removed from laundry detergents and many other products.

Sodus Bay is fortunate in that its upland watershed areas are primarily woods (27%) and fruit farmers (38%) who, like grape growers, use very little phosphorus. Given the world-wide demand for fertilizer and the subsequent increase in fertilizer prices over the past several years, farmers here are not anxious to buy fertilizer they don’t need or to let it wash away with spring runoff.

The practice of spreading fertilizer, or manure, for that matter, on top of snow or frozen ground is not considered a best management practice (BMP) or even a sound financial one.

~~~~~~ Some Highlights from the article:

A United States-Canadian agency called… to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the water and creating a vast blanket of algae each summer, threatening fisheries, tourism and even drinking water.

In a report on the algae problem, the International Joint Commission, said that fertilizer swept by rains from farms and lawns was a major source of phosphorus in the lake. It recommended that crop insurance be tied to farmers’ adoption of practices that limit fertilizer runoff, and that Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania ban most sales of phosphorus-based lawn fertilizers.

The commission… urged Michigan and Ohio to invoke the Clean Water Act to limit phosphorus pollution from farmland as opposed to from factories and other places where pollution can be pinpointed and measured.

The proposals are likely to encounter strong opposition from the agricultural industry and fertilizer manufacturers…

Phosphorus… in fertilizer… is the source of the algal blooms, some of which are so toxic that they have killed dogs and sickened swimmers. Beyond clotting the lake’s surface, decomposing algae consumes the oxygen in the lake’s deep center each summer, creating a dead zone where deepwater fish that are essential to the lake’s food chain cannot exist.

National and state governments rid the lake of algae in the 1980s, ordering big cuts in phosphorus pollution from factories and sewage plants. But the blooms returned in the late 1990s as farmers started applying fertilizer on frozen fields in the winter, and spreading or spraying it instead of injecting it into the ground.

… large algae blooms have crippled tourism in a region where sport fishing and lake recreation are major industries, and they have forced towns and cities to filter and even shut off drinking water. The multibillion-dollar commercial fishing industry could be hit hard. The lake’s growing dead zone has prompted deepwater fish to move upward in search of oxygen, only to run into warmer waters that they find hard to tolerate. Deepwater fish such as perch — a favorite food of one big commercial fish, the walleye — could suffer if the dead zone continues to expand.

Continue reading story in The New York Times