An update on Michigan's Lake Erie Domestic Plan

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An aerial view of Lake Erie near Monroe County

Taking action on Lake Erie – progress update

Michigan’s natural resource agencies released a plan to improve the health of Lake Erie in 2018. The Lake Erie Domestic Plan outlines strategic actions for state agencies including the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources with the Office of the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie, Michigan’s warmest and shallowest Great Lake, has experienced impacts from algae overgrowth fueled by nutrients and other factors. The causes are complex, and natural resource managers are working to fully understand them.

Initiatives are under way to ensure safe water and support healthy ecosystems. In this update, we share a sampling of actions implemented to help understand and improve Lake Erie. 

View the Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan webpage ►

Two farmers stand in front of a MAEAP verification sign

On farmland

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has continued to expand staffing for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), providing additional technicians to work with farmers to protect water quality through voluntary measures like nutrient management plans. Statewide, the program has reached nearly 5,000 verifications. There has been additional interest from urban farms to be environmentally verified under MAEAP.

The Great Lakes Water Authority and farmers are together implementing variable rate biosolids application methods to get nutrients where they are needed on fields in the right proportions.

The MSU Institute of Water Research is working on a project to plant cover crops and adopt other conservation practices that reduce phosphorus throughout Southeast Michigan. Cover crops protect water quality by reducing losses of nutrients, sediments, and pesticides.

The Adams Township State Game Area in Hillsdale County was awarded grant funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to convert 30 acres of field into prairie habitat with wetland restoration. Work will begin in spring 2019.

Rain garden interpretive sign

In urban environments

The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation is in the final stages of implementing a million-dollar program for Detroit and Metro-Detroit that will include green stormwater infrastructure and habitat restoration. The competitive grant program called the Southeast Michigan Resilience Fund is a public-private partnership that will benefit Southeast Michigan communities and habitats.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), in partnership with the Office of the Great Lakes, has received $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement a project to address urban green stormwater infrastructure. Local and county governments within the SEMCOG seven-county jurisdiction are eligible to apply to fund projects that address nutrient inputs from runoff to local rivers. 

Farmers watch a presentation in the field on agricultural water solutions


Lenawee Conservation District is working with University of Michigan experts on a research and monitoring effort using an autosampling machine on a subwatershed connected to Lake Erie. This watershed is 15% covered by conservation best management practices and is showing low levels of nutrient runoff compared to previous tests. The sampling will get data based on the current practices with the goal of getting 100% best practices installation in the watershed in the next three years.

The River Raisin Watershed Council held a “Bug ID Day” Nov. 17 to assess stream health. Insect populations can reveal important environmental information about waters that can be used to inform management efforts. The River Raisin Watershed Council and Adrian College have been sampling 20 different sites on the River Raisin for over 16 years.  Rivers with diversity of macroinvertibrates are generally are healthier than those with lower diversity. The samples will be analyzed and compiled with previous years’ data to reveal trends.

The tall ship Appledore on the Great Lakes

Collaborating for success

The Monroe Conservation District and River Raisin Institute hosted an educational Great Lakes Sail in September for 23 farming families from the SS. La Point Drain area near Luna Pier. These sails connect the actions of farmers with impacts to water quality and share methods to improve water stewardship.

Phosphorus application restrictions were added to the Michigan Fertilizer Law in 2010, banning the use of phosphate-containing fertilizers in all but a few managed applications. It is estimated that this ban has eliminated significant amounts of phosphorus from entering the Lake Erie watershed and will continue to do so.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development was awarded a grant of $735,500 from the U.S. EPA to manage a program to reduce nutrients in Lake Erie. The program will encourage farmers to make nutrient applications to cropland based on the results of soil tests. The department will promote participation among farmers and support adoption of soil sampling, nutrient management, variable rate application and other science-based methods.  

Michigan's natural resource agencies are committed to achieving the 40% phosphorus reduction goal defined in the Lake Erie Domestic Action Plan and working in collaboration with federal, state and local partners to improve the health of Lake Erie. 

Contact OGL outreach coordinator Rachel Coale with questions.