Rules recently adopted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) allow the agency to take additional action to address water quality issues, such as those that have occurred at Grand Lake St. Marys.
The rules establish criteria that the agency can use to designate a “watershed in distress.”
“The main reason why a watershed would be listed as a watershed in distress is because of excessive nutrients leading to health issues,” said Larry Antosch, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) senior director of program innovation and environmental policy.
Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio received the designation in January in response to blooms of toxic blue-green algae that have created health risks at the popular tourist destination.
As a result, more farmers in the watershed will be required to follow nutrient management plans and there will also be a restriction on winter application of manure, Antosch said.
All livestock operations and manure applicators handling greater than 350 tons and/or 100,000 gallons of manure per year must immediately begin following U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service standards for land application, according to ODNR.
“Farm Bureau was actively engaged in the whole rule development process. We’ve provided several comments to the department as the rules were being developed. Some of those comments were incorporated into the final rules, which we’re very happy about,” Antosch said.
At the same time, he said Ohio Farm Bureau is being watchful as rules get implemented to ensure the process is following the correct procedure.
Ohio Farm Bureau members strengthened the organization’s policy on water quality at the organization’s annual meeting to encourage the implementation of nutrient management plans by farmers who apply manure and commercial fertilizers.
Additionally, Farm Bureau members in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed have established local policy to address water quality issues.
The watershed encompasses 59,160 acres across Mercer and Auglaize counties and over the years has become increasingly enriched by phosphates and nitrates from a number of man-made and natural sources, according to ODNR.