PERRYSBURG — The president of Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments tackled hot-button issues, such as algae blooms in Lake Erie and regional water, at last week’s chamber of commerce luncheon.
“This is something that we all need to think about and talk about because you can’t take your kids and play on the beach at Lake Erie without the fear of them getting severely injured by the water. It’s highly toxic,” Tim Brown said of the algae blooms.
Brown said agriculture is one of the leading causes.
“We know now that about 87 percent of the contributing nutrients to the algae blooms in the Maumee River and Lake Erie is from agriculture,” he said. “This isn’t to blame agriculture, they’re doing what we as a society expect of them. They’re producing more food today on less farm fields than ever before in American history … but that less acreage and more nutrients is having an impact on our water quality and we can’t have one without the other.”
Brown said that farmers need help as they try to meet such high demands with less resources.
“We as a society might have to decide that we have to live with higher food prices. And how do you tell a farmer who has the same overhead cost and less acreage that you now have to produce less and put less nutrients on your field so that the yields go down?”
Brown also said that the algae bloom is affecting Ohio’s tourism. The eight counties surrounding Lake Erie are worth $15 billion dollars of Ohio’s annual travel and tourism activities, he said.
“We have charter boat captains who are members of TMACOG that will tell you their boats are much less full now then they were many years ago. Which means less people coming to Ohio, buying gas and staying in hotels and eating in our restaurants. So it has an impact on us,” Brown said.
TMACOG has partnered with farmers to find a solution.
“We have to find a way to work with agriculture and we do that at TMACOG. We’ve got grants to put covers on crops to hold nutrients throughout the winter. We have drainage control boxes to help farmers keep water on their fields instead of flushing it out,” Brown said.
It is important for residents to urge their government officials to get involved, he said.
“We need government to be involved and understand. And I’m talking to a lot of my fellow Republican friends here,” he said. “Regulation isn’t always a dirty word.”
As the ongoing discussion of a regional water source continues, Brown said that TMACOG took on a regional water project in hopes to create a regional system.
“When I was (a Wood County) commissioner, we had some communities buying water from Toledo that were paying 175 percent more for water than what someone in Toledo was paying,” Brown said.
Suburban partners have grown restless of the 40 percent surcharge, he said.
“They’ve dug their pitchforks out and stormed the castle. We’ve been having discussions and everyone’s been around the table talking about ‘how might we regionalize the system so that we have fair, equal rates throughout the entire region without penalizing a 40 percent surcharge on jobs that Wood County creates.”
Nov. 6 will show the future, he said.
“We’ll know more after the November election whether Toledo citizens will even allow Toledo to participate. One of the suburbs, Waterville, just got tired of waiting and they trenched a pipe under the Maumee river and they now buy water from Bowling Green and there are other viable options for our suburbs other than Toledo, if they can’t work out a deal.”
Other options that suburbs have begun to consider include buying water from Detroit, building their own water treatment plant and getting water from an aquifer.