State of the Beach/State Reports/OH/Water Quality

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Ohio Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access92
Water Quality62
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill4-
Shoreline Structures6 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas23
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}

Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act) signed into law on October 10, 2000, amends the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), incorporating provisions intended to reduce the risk of illness to users of the Nation's recreational waters. The BEACH Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to award program development and implementation grants to eligible States, Territories, Tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreation waters, including the Great Lakes, that are adjacent to beaches or similar points of access used by the public. BEACH Act grants also provide support for development and implementation of programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in coastal recreation waters. EPA encourages coastal States and Territories to apply for BEACH Act Grants for Program Implementation (referred to as Implementation Grants) to implement effective and comprehensive coastal recreation water monitoring and public notification programs. CWA section 406(i) authorizes appropriations of up to $30 million per year to develop and implement beach programs. Unfortunately, only about one-third that amount has been authorized each year since the program's inception. In recent years, the total funding available for BEACH Act grants has been about $9.5 million. Funding beyond 2012 has been in jeopardy, since EPA's budget requests for this program in FY2013 and FY2014 were ZERO (money for testing in 2013 and 2014 was ultimately allocated as part of Continuing Resolutions to resolve the Federal Budget impasse) and there was also no money for beach testing in the FY2015 budget. Again, it was restored at the last minute as part of a Continuing Resolution. It is very discouraging to have to fight for this basic funding to protect the public's health at the beach every year. Thankfully, there is a growing movement to provide stable funding. Unfortunately, in 2017 the situation is even more dire. If available, funds are allocated to the states and territories based on a formula which uses three factors that are readily available and verifiable: (1) Length of beach season, (2) miles of beach and (3) number of people that use the beaches. Ohio was eligible for a $213,000 grant in fiscal year 2016.

Portions of the following discussion are taken from NRDC's report Testing the Waters, A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches, June 2014. NRDC's report evaluates beach monitoring data relative to EPA's recommended Beach Action Value (BAV). The BAV is a more protective threshold than the national allowable bacteria levels used in previous years to trigger beach advisories. The EPA considers the BAV to be a "conservative, precautionary tool for making beach notification decisions."

NRDC ranked Ohio 30th (last) in Beachwater Quality (out of 30 states). 35% of samples exceeded EPA's new BAV standards for designated beach areas in 2013.

Ohio monitors public and semipublic beaches along nearly 53 miles of Lake Erie shoreline. The state's beachwater quality monitoring program is administered by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Beachgoers can learn about beach advisories and closings on the Ohio BeachGuard website.

Water Quality Challenges and Improvements

Predictive Models

Ohio has been using a predictive model called "nowcast" at three of its Lake Erie beaches: Huntington Beach and Edgewater State Park in Cuyahoga County and Maumee Bay State Park in Lucas County. In 2012, the Lake County General Health District began using the nowcast model at Mentor Headlands State Park Beach and Fairport Harbor Beach to test the validity of the model, but did not use it to make advisory decisions.

The model relies on environmental factors including rainfall, turbidity, and/or wave height to predict E. coli levels. Predictive models are useful because they allow advisories to be issued the day that bacteria levels are suspected to be high. In contrast, when advisories are issued on the basis of E. coli counts determined by culture methods, they are issued the day after standards are exceeded because it generally takes 24 hours to obtain culture results. Many times, the culture results of samples taken on the day a beach is placed under advisory reveal that the water quality was actually acceptable on the day of the advisory.

In 2012 at Huntington and Edgewater State Park beaches, nowcast-based decisions about notifications were more protective of public health than decisions based on bacterial monitoring in 2012. However, nowcast modeling at Mentor Headlands State Park Beach and Fairport Harbor Beach in Lake County was not as protective because it produced a number of false negatives: the model predicted bacterial counts under the state maximum, but bacterial monitoring showed that there were actually exceedances. The inaccuracy of nowcasting at Mentor Headlands State Park and Fairport Harbor may have been due to scattered, spotty storms throughout the summer and the use of weather data from Ashtabula and Burke Lakefront Airport. In some cases, one of the data locations received rain while neither of the Lake County beaches did. The nowcast model for this area will be reviewed for the 2013 season.

The Erie County Health Department continued to develop models for three of its beaches in 2012. The tested model performed well at Huron West (76.9% accuracy) and Vermilion West (82.7% accuracy) but did not perform well as well Huron East (48.9% accuracy). The model will be updated as continued testing determines which variables provide the most accurate results in 2013.

The USGS Ohio Water Science Center (OWSC) has been working with State and local agencies, academia, and other federal agencies to strengthen the science of beach monitoring since 1997, focusing on three areas of research—source tracking, predictive models, and improved monitoring methods. Recently, the focus has shifted towards predictive models, including adding information about predicting cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) to the Ohio Nowcast.

Algae Blooms

The western part of Lake Erie sometimes experiences blooms of Microcystis, a type of cyanobacteria. When close to shore, these blooms foul the beaches, producing a rotten smell. More important, some forms of Microcystis produce liver toxins; although these usually cause nothing more than skin and intestinal problems in humans, they have in some cases caused death in pets, wildlife, and livestock. These blooms can also contribute to the Lake Erie dead zone, an area of depleted oxygen that threatens the lake's billion-dollar fishery.

The Lake Erie algae blooms that developed in 2011 and 2012 have sparked an increased monitoring effort that hopefully will lead to solutions. More problems were experienced in 2013 and now NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) issues weekly and seasonal forecasts. Also see here. The algae blooms in 2015 were the worst on record according to NOAA.

In 2015, the Ohio General Assembly passed a measure to clean up Lake Erie pollution and fight the harmful algal blooms that contaminated Toledo’s water in 2014. The bill focuses on reducing the amount of nutrients such as phosphorus which flow into the lake as rain runoff, feeding the growth of harmful algal blooms. More on this legislation. Ohio is also receiving $4 million in Federal funds from the Great Lakes Restoration fund to address algae blooms in Lake Erie. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says much of the money will toward preventing phosphorus from getting into the lake and fueling the algae. Some will be used to fund projects that will take cropland out of production, install field runoff retention systems and restore six miles of stream channels to their natural habitat.

In June 2015 Ohio and Michigan, along with Ontario, agreed that they will work to cut the amount of phosphorus flowing into western Lake Erie by 40 percent within the next 10 years. The two states and Canada will develop plans on how to reach their goal to reduce the phosphorus runoff. They hope to start with a 20 percent reduction within the next five years. More on this.


Sampling Practices

The monitoring season generally runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The state recommends sampling practices, standards, and notification protocols and procedures to local entities that participate in the beachwater quality monitoring program. Guidance recommends that samples be taken in water that is 3 feet deep, 1 foot below the surface. For the most part, monitoring is conducted in the area of the beach used most by the public. Beaches are prioritized for monitoring on the basis of visitor use and water quality history, so beaches attracting the most visitors and/or having a potential for contamination (Tier 1) are sampled the most frequently.

All of the Lake Erie beaches identified by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are monitored at least weekly, with the majority sampled at least four times a week. Many of the beaches in the program are sampled daily or as frequently as laboratory availability will allow. The monitoring frequency of these beaches does not increase after a bacterial exceedance has been found, but if an exceedance is discovered at a beach that is monitored only once a week, resampling may be conducted on the next business day.

Closings and Advisories

Local jurisdictions have the authority to close beaches and to issue advisories. Beaches are rarely closed because of elevated bacterial counts alone. Ohio uses an E. coli single-sample maximum standard of 235 cfu/100 ml for beach advisory decisions. No geometric mean standard is applied when making advisory decisions. The state recommends that local authorities issue advisories when the bacterial standard is exceeded. Beachgoers can access advisory information on the Ohio Beach Guard website.

There are no preemptive rainfall standards at beaches in Ohio, but beach managers may issue preemptive rainfall advisories if they feel that rain has compromised water quality. Beach managers may also restrict beach access because of sewage or other pollution spills, or because of any other threat to public health.

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a free smartphone application that provides convenient, public access to swim advisories and other environmental conditions information for more than 1,800 beaches in the Great Lakes region. Funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the myBeachCast application (app) retrieves locational and advisory data for Great Lakes and inland lake beaches in the eight Great Lakes states. The app also features real-time and forecasted weather and lake conditions (e.g., water temperature, wave heights, wind speed/direction) and nearshore marine forecasts, drawn from the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). myBeachCast allows users to discover local beaches based on the user’s location, view beaches and their status on a map, save favorite beaches, and get driving directions. To download myBeachCast, go to

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), through its Great Lakes Beach Health Initiative, has been conducting research to advance the science of beach health in the Great Lakes for over a decade. The overall mission of this work is to provide science-based information and methods that will allow beach managers to more accurately make beach closure and advisory decisions, understand the sources and physical processes affecting beach contaminants, and understand how science-based information can be used to mitigate and restore beaches and protect the public. The work consists of four science elements—real-time assessments; pathogens and microbial source tracking; coastal processes; and data analysis, interpretation, and communication.

A multi-agency Advanced Monitoring Initiative project entitled Developing Water and Land Tools to Forecast Bacterial Exposure in Beach Settings was initiated in 2007 to develop, synthesize, compare, and promote tools that can provide early warnings about pathogen indicator levels. Led by researchers and tool developers from EPA, USGS, NOAA, state and local governments, and universities, this project integrates several approaches that link environmental observations to the forecasting of microbial exposure, including statistical, hydrodynamic/process-based, and non-point source pollution models.

National Ocean Service/National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) has carried out many water quality research projects in Ohio.

Water Quality Contact

Mary Clifton
Ohio Department of Health
Beach Monitoring Program
246 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Telephone: (614) 466-1390
Fax: (614) 466-4556
Toll-free Beach information line: 1-866-OHIO BCH (866-644-6224)

Beach Closures

NRDC reported:

In 2013, Ohio reported 63 coastal beaches, 60 of which were monitored. Of all reported beach monitoring samples, 35% exceeded the Beach Action Value (BAV) of 190 E. coli bacteria colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml freshwater in a single sample. NRDC considers all reported samples individually (without averaging) when calculating the percent exceedance rates in this analysis. This includes duplicate samples and reported samples taken outside the official beach season, if any.

The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates of the BAV in 2013 were Lakeview Beach in Lorain County (76%), Bay View West in Erie County (70%), Whites Landing in Erie County (62%), Edgecliff Beach in Cuyahoga County (62%), Clarkwood Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%), and Sims Beach in Cuyahoga County (61%).

For a bar chart showing a 5-year water quality trend, see NRDC's report.

You can download Ohio's 2010 Beach Monitoring Report from a link on this website.

The Ohio Department of Health's new (2011) BeachGuard website allows visitors to learn whether an advisory on bacteria or algae has been posted at any beaches monitored by the state.

An experimental Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) bulletin has been developed to provide a weekly forecast for Microcystis blooms in western Lake Erie. When a harmful bloom is detected by the experimental system, scientists will issue a forecast bulletin. The bulletin depicts the HABs’ current location and future movement, as well as categorizes its intensity on a weekly basis. Sign up to receive these bulletins.

The Office of Coastal Management's Ohio's Coastal Beaches Web page has links to Ohio Department of Health Beach Monitoring Sample Results, Ohio Nowcasting Beach Advisories (Cuyahoga County), and local beach monitoring programs by Erie County Health Department, City of Lorain Health Department, Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Lake County General Health District and Ashtabula County Health Department.

In 2014, the beaches at Euclid State Park along with Villa Angela State Park on Cleveland's east side were at the contamination advisory level from Memorial Day through at least the end of July due to a problem involving a sewer line from the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community. The line is either damaged or improperly connected, causing sewage to flow into the storm drain system and ultimately to the beach state parks. More on this.

In June 2013, U.S. EPA released its latest data about beach closings and advisories for the 2012 swimming season. Note that for some states the data is incomplete, making state-to-state or year-to-year comparisons difficult. Here's EPA's BEACH Report for Ohio's 2012 Swimming Season. EPA no longer publishes this report.

Storm Drains and Sewage Outfalls

The Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water (DSW) ensures compliance with the federal Clean Water Act and works to increase the number of water bodies that can safely be used for swimming and fishing. They issue permits to regulate wastewater treatment plants, factories and storm water to reduce the impact of pollutants. They develop comprehensive watershed plans aimed at improving polluted streams. They sample streams, lakes and wetlands, including fish, aquatic insects and plants, to determine the health of Ohio’s surface waters.

The Division of Surface Water has information on municipal and industrial NPDES discharge permits that can be located by county or by map.

Combined Sewer Overflows

Combined sewers were built to collect sanitary and industrial wastewater, as well as storm water runoff, and transport this combined wastewater to treatment facilities. Flows conveyed to the treatment plant are then treated and discharged to a nearby river or stream. During dry weather and small wet weather events (i.e., rainfall and snowmelt), combined sewers are designed to transport all flows to a treatment plant. During larger wet weather events the volume of storm water entering the combined sewer system may exceed the capacity of the combined sewers or the treatment plant. When this happens, combined sewers are designed to allow a portion of the untreated combined wastewater to overflow into the nearest ditch, stream, river or lake. The locations where these discharges of untreated combined wastewater occur, as well as the discharge events themselves, are known as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). DSW has information on their Combined Sewer Overflow Program, including maps of individual CSO outfall locations organized by community.

CSOs are the primary source of untreated sewage discharges to Lake Erie. These discharges impact water quality and introduce bacteria that can present a public health threat. In the Lake Erie basin, 64 communities had or have CSOs. An estimated eight billion gallons of untreated sewage was discharged into Lake Erie and its tributaries in 2004 from 11 of the CSO communities.

Some good news regarding this problem was announced in December 2010. A major new infrastructure program to reduce or treat raw sewage flowing into Cleveland-area waterways and Lake Erie will move forward, as a result of a Clean Water Act settlement between the U.S. government and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) announced Dec. 22. The program includes the construction of seven new tunnels and at least $42 million in green infrastructure projects. The tunnels will increase the amount of stormwater that can be stored during wet weather events, so that the sewer district's wastewater and combined sewer overflow treatment facilities, which currently use a bypass system, can increase the amount of wastewater that can be treated, Read more. Here's additional information on the projects from a article in February 2011. Here's a further update in the form of a fact sheet on the Euclid Creek Tunnel Project from NEORSD.

A series of articles in the Great Lakes Echo discuss stormwater and municipal wastewater issues throughout the Great Lakes that are impacting recreational water quality.

DSW's Nonpoint Source Program is described on their informative website, which includes links to program documents and success stories.

Also see ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources - Coastal NonPoint Pollution Control.

On November 3, 2009 Ohio Governor Ted Strickland issued a statement applauding President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress for their support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The initiative, which was signed into law by President Obama on October 30, 2009, allocates $475 million to respond to a plan of action prepared by the Great Lakes states in cooperation with 16 federal agencies. Funding is available for the most significant problems facing the Great Lakes, including invasive aquatic species, wildlife habitat restoration, non-point source pollution, contaminated sediment clean up, water quality monitoring, and beach monitoring/clean up, all issues that Lake Erie and Ohio have experienced.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission has released its Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan 2008 (LEPR) that outlines actions the Ohio Lake Erie Commission and its member agencies will take towards restoration of Lake Erie and its watershed. The Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan 2008 should provide a road map for Ohio’s efforts related to Lake Erie until 2014.

USGS' Water Resources of Ohio provides access to water flow and water quality information.

Water Quality Contact (Runoff and Outfalls)

Russ Gibson
Nonpoint Source Section Manager
Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water
50 West Town Street, Suite 700
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, Ohio 43216-1049
(614) 644-2020 [voice]
(614) 644-2745 [fax]

Perception of Causes

The Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan 2008 states:

"The good news is that Lake Erie and its surrounding Ohio watersheds have improved significantly since the dark days of the 1960s and 1970s when the Lake was a national embarrassment for Ohio. The Lake Erie Quality Index, released by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission most recently in 2004, evaluated 11 separate indicators of Lake Erie quality. Positive trends were seen in many environmental, economic, and recreational indicator scores. However, water quality has begun to decline again after having previously improved. The investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in sewage treatment plant upgrades, adoption of pollution prevention technologies and improvements in industrial wastewater treatment have resulted in reaching our reduction goals for most point source pollutants. The adoption of many best management practices greatly reduced runoff from nonpoint sources. However, recent increases in soluble phosphorus apparently combined with the affects of the zebra and quagga mussel invasions have resulted in an increase in algal blooms and related declines in water clarity and quality. Noxious algae blooms have reappeared in the Western Basin and the so called “dead zone” or area of low to zero oxygen levels has been expanding in the Central Basin as well. Some related slippage in tourism was also noted. The bottom line is that the present condition of the Lake Erie watershed is not satisfactory for Ohio’s future."
"Within Ohio, beach closures, coastal erosion problems, failing home septic systems, and combined sewer and sanitary sewer overflows impact the quality of nearshore areas. In addition to the direct negative impact on health and property, secondary impacts include reduced property values, lower tourism rates, and a persistent negative view of the value of the Great Lakes. Coastal areas provide the primary opportunity for most Ohioans and travelers to experience Lake Erie."
"Concentrated Animal Feeding Facilities (CAFFs) have been increasing in the Lake Erie Basin, as the aggregate number of livestock, and total number of livestock farms, has decreased in the Lake Erie Basin since the mid-twentieth century. The economics of production has been driving the practice of housing larger and larger number of animals on a single farm. The increased concentration of animals results in larger amounts of animal waste to be managed on a single farm, which in turn creates public concern."
"The presence of algal blooms in western Lake Erie tends to closely match trends in dissolved reactive phosphorous levels within the Lake. However, there is not yet a complete understanding of the presence of HABs, nor is there a plan for how to address them. The presence of lyngbya wollei, microcystis, and other potentially harmful algal blooms is of concern due in large part to their potential impacts on wildlife, human health, and drinking water supplies. Additional research and action is needed to address HABs in Lake Erie."

Algal blooms were a significant problem in western Lake Erie in summer 2011 and in 2013. Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson announced in October 2011 that three watersheds plagued with algae would receive special attention under a Great Lakes restoration program. They include the Maumee River in Ohio, which flows into Lake Erie.

An article Ohio farms flush with manure appeared in The Columbus Dispatch in January 2012. From the article:

"Manure is becoming an increasingly serious problem in Ohio. The state has as many as 40 million chickens, hogs and cows that collectively produce more than 17 million tons of manure each year, according to state and federal estimates. Phosphorus from manure that rain washes off farms helps grow large summertime blooms of toxic, blue-green algae in waterways, including Grand Lake St. Marys and Lake Erie. At stake are billions of dollars in fishing and tourism."

An article in the Great Lakes Echo in December 2012 discussed many of the water quality problems in the Great Lakes, including bacterial pollution, algal blooms and invasive species.

U.S. EPA and federal, state and local beach program partners developed standardized beach sanitary survey forms in 2007. These forms assist beach managers with a consistent approach to identify pollution sources, share information, and plan source remediation. The forms were successfully piloted by 61 Great Lakes beaches during the 2007 beach season, through EPA funding. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) Clean Beaches Initiative is focused on broadening the use of these standard sanitary survey forms throughout the Great Lakes region. Beach managers, cities, tribes, and citizen volunteers are encouraged to use the standard sanitary survey forms and take this first critical step towards ensuring clean and safe beaches.

Great Lakes Restoration

In June 2009 President Obama appointed Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, the first-ever Great Lakes “czar.” Mr. Davis coordinated federal programs on the lakes, including efforts to clean up contaminated sediments, reduce existing pollution sources and work to stop the spread of invasive species. The position was part of a $5 billion, 10-year restoration plan Obama released during his 2008 presidential campaign. Davis' official title is "Senior Advisor to the Administrator" Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Congress approved legislation in late October 2009 that included $475 million to restore the Great Lakes by combating invasive species, cleaning up highly polluted sites and expanding wetlands. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) includes:

  • $146 million for cleaning up pollution in sediment in feeder rivers and harbors before it flows into the Lakes.
  • $105 million to protect and restore habitat and wildlife.
  • $97 million to stop "nonpoint" pollution, such as farm fertilizer and oil runoff, that closes beaches and leads to fish kills.
  • $65 million to evaluate how the Lakes and wildlife are responding to cleanup efforts.
  • $60 million for combating zebra mussels and other invasive species.

This initiative will use outcome-oriented performance goals and measures to target the most significant problems and track progress in addressing them. EPA and its Federal partners will coordinate State, tribal, local, and industry actions to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. The Initiative builds upon 5 years of work of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force (IATF) and stakeholders, guided by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The IATF included 11 cabinet and agency organizations, including: EPA, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the Departments of State, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Army, and Health and Human Services.

The IATF developed a Plan for the $475 million budget, including over $250 million in grants and project agreements aimed at achieving the long term goals: safely eating the fish and swimming at our beaches, assuring safe drinking water, and providing a healthy ecosystem for fish and wildlife. A companion Agency Actions document describes proposed accomplishments for each Agency pursuant to the Initiative.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative website provides additional information on the progress of this initiative, including the award of grants for specific projects.

The FY2010-FY2014 Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan was released on February 21, 2010. This Plan provides information about how the GLRI will address specific high profile, basin-wide issues (for example, aquatic invasive species) as well as critical but more localized issues (for example, contaminated sediments). EPA and the IATF used this plan to guide the overall direction and focus of GLRI and laid out the goals, objectives, measures, and actions to help track federal efforts from fiscal year 2010 through 2014. Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan II for FY2015-2019 was released in September 2014 and builds upon the work of the first GLRI Action Plan. More information on the action plan can be found here.

The report State of the Great Lakes 2016 contains discussions on each of the Great Lakes and the current and planned restoration projects.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 145 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums. Their member organizations represent millions of people who share a common goal of restoring and protecting North America’s greatest freshwater resource, the Great Lakes. The coalition reflects a growing public awareness of the urgent need to restore the health of the Great Lakes, which are essential to the economic and cultural identity of our region. The coalition’s mission is to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the funding needed to implement it. The coalition seeks to:

  • stop sewage contamination that closes beaches and harms recreational opportunities;
  • clean up toxic sediments that threaten the health of people and wildlife;
  • prevent polluted runoff from cities and farms that harm water quality;
  • restore and protect high quality wetlands and wildlife habitat that filter pollutants, provide a home for fish and wildlife, and support the region’s outdoor recreation economy;
  • prevent the introduction of invasive species, such as Asian carp, that threaten the economy and quality of life for millions of people.

In March 2017 the Trump administration proposed a 97% cut in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Some progress is being made in restoration of habitat and improvement in water quality. Here are some Ohio success stories.

Cladophora Algae and Harmful Algal Blooms

Excessive growth of the filamentous green alga, Cladophora sp., was one of the most obvious symptoms of eutrophication in the Great Lakes between the 1950s and 1970s. During the latter part of this period, a large amount of research was conducted to determine the causes of excessive Cladophora growth. While various factors, including nitrogen, phosphorus, temperature and irradiance were found to influence Cladophora growth, phosphorus appeared to be the key factor responsible for excessive growth, and phosphorus abatement was seen as the most effective method of solving the problem. This approach appeared to be validated by the decline in the abundance of Cladophora and other algae in the 1980s following the removal of phosphorus from detergents, improved phosphorus removal by sewage treatment plants, and changes in agricultural practices designed to reduce phosphorus runoff from land – actions that resulted from a 1983 amendment to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

In the past five to ten years, excessive Cladophora growth has re-emerged as a management problem in parts of the Great Lakes. This has resulted in public complaint, generally related to the decline in aesthetic conditions near the lakeshore. Other negative impacts include human health hazards (e.g. Cladophora mats may promote the growth or retention of pathogens), the clogging of water intakes (including those of power plants), the loss of recreation opportunities, and declining lakefront property values. In addition to direct impacts on humans, excessive Cladophora growth may have significant impacts on ecosystem functions and properties such as nutrient cycling, energy flow and food web structure. More info.

A June 2006 report Something’s Amuck, Algae Blooms Return to Michigan Shores by the the Michigan Environmental Council has more on this problem and what can be done to solve it.

A presentation by Michael Evanoff of Michigan DNR Bay City State Recreation Area, Muck Management Uncensored examines the history of "muck management" at this location.

An article Green Disposal of a Green Menace was published in the Great Lakes Echo on July 30, 2013. This article discusses options for disposal of Cladophora algae, including composting and possibly using it in the production of biofuels.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure The Beach Manager's Manual - Harmful Algal Blooms.

The NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health (CEGLHH) is hosting a series of Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Stakeholder Workshops in Great Lakes states. The purpose of these workshops is to bring together public health, water, beach/natural resource managers, and tribes to discuss and assess the HAB issue in the state. For additional information on these Workshops, please see:

In February 2008, the Alliance for the Great Lakes issued a press release criticizing the state's draft 2008 305(b) report of impaired waters for failing to document a dramatic increase in algae blooms in Saginaw Bay and along Western Lake Erie.

Public Education

NOAA-funded agencies in Ohio have partnered to develop a unified education and outreach plan for Lake Erie and its watershed.

Ohio EPA has Pollution Prevention (P2) at Homeinformation.

ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources - Coastal NonPoint Pollution Control explains Lake Erie nonpoint issues.

Ohio Department of Health has information on Harmful Algal Blooms(HABs). HABs are so named because many produce poisons (or toxins) that can cause illness or irritation—sometimes even death—in pets, livestock, and humans. An algal bloom is an abundant or excessive growth of algae. Most HABs in Ohio waters are caused by planktonic bacteria, which are suspended in the water and rely on currents to move them. The term "algal" is a little misleading because the organisms that normally make up HABs are actually cyanobacteria, which are commonly referred to as "blue-green algae," and are not true algae.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Michigan Sea Grant have produced a brochure The Beach Manager's Manual - Harmful Algal Blooms.

Presenting a clean environment for those visiting Ohio’s Lake Erie coast is the goal of a new (2011) Lake Erie Cleanup small grants program. Grants will provide funding for community-based cleanup activities on public land and waterways along Ohio’s 312-mile coast. Those public places are featured in Ohio’s Lake Erie Public Access Guidebook (published July 2010) and on the companion Lake Erie Public Access Guide website.

Participation in the annual Coast Weeks events, organized by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, has been on-going for many years. Over a period of three years, more than 1200 volunteers covered about 75 miles of beaches, tributaries and streams in the Lake Erie coastal area. The amount of trash and litter collected was in excess of 31,000 pounds. Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve has participated in Coast Weeks activities each year (storm drain stenciling in coastal communities, programming for public schools, adopt-a-highway volunteers, etc.).

Plastics and other litter, abandoned vessels, and derelict fishing gear have been a long-standing problem for the Great Lakes. In order to begin to address this problem, the Great Lakes community worked together to produce the Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan. The action plan provides scientists, governments, stakeholders, and decision makers a road map for strategic progress to see that the Great Lakes, its coasts, people, and wildlife are free from the impacts of marine debris. It centers around a mission to combat debris through an increased understanding of the problem, preventative actions, reductions in impacts, education and outreach, and collaborative efforts from diverse groups.

In September of 2002, 2003 and 2004 between 500 and 900 volunteers cleaned a total of 140+ miles of shore and waterways in the Lake Erie watershed, as part of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Nearly 47,000 pounds of debris were cleaned up.

Teach Great Lakes is a project of the Great Lakes Commission.

The Ohio Clean Marinas Program is a proactive partnership designed to encourage marinas and boaters to use simple, innovative solutions to keep Ohio's coastal and inland waterway resources clean. The Ohio Clean Marinas Program has implemented an extensive education and outreach program and developed a comprehensive Clean Marinas Best Management Practices Guidebook.

The USGS Ohio Water Science Center provides information on Ohio's streams, ground water, water quality, and many other topics.

The International Joint Commission (U.S. and Canada) has a Beaches and Recreational Water Quality Workgroup that has developed a Beaches Fact Sheet and several other documents evaluating sources of recreational water quality contamination and reviewing best management practices.

General Reference Documents

EPA has compiled several NPS (Nonpoint Source) Outreach Products that are a selection of television, radio, and print products on nonpoint source pollution that have been developed by various agencies and organizations around the country. They are good examples of outreach in the mass media. Also see What You Can Do.

NOAA, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, International City/County Management Association and Rhode Island Sea Grant, has released an interagency guide that adapts smart growth principles to the unique needs of coastal and waterfront communities. Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities builds on existing smart growth principles to offer 10 coastal and waterfront-specific guidelines that help manage development while balancing environmental, economic, and quality of life issues.

State of the Beach Report: Ohio
Ohio Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
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