The Ohio Phosphorus Task Force II issued its final report on findings to support reduction of phosphorus loading and associated harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and surrounding watersheds.

The report was released Nov. 13.

Recommendations include the development of loading targets for the Maumee River watershed and other Lake Erie tributaries, expansion of current phosphorus monitoring programs, and working with area stakeholders to improve soil health, nutrient retention, and proper timing and placement of applied fertilizers, the report said.

The report was created by a diverse working group of industry professionals including experts from Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach arm, Ohio State University Extension; Ohio State University's Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; the Ohio Department of Agriculture; the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and the Lake Erie Commission.

In addition to improving water quality throughout the Lake Erie watershed, recommended measures could lead to cost savings for farmers due to reduced need for fertilizer, improve public health as combined sewer systems are updated to reduce overflows, and build on previous successes in reducing phosphorus content in commercial lawn care products, organizers said.

Phosphorus, which is in animal manure and many commercial fertilizers, tends to be the nutrient that determines how much harmful algae can grow in Lake Erie, organizers said.

"This report gives us an excellent road map for moving forward in phosphorus management in the Lake Erie watershed," said Ohio Sea Grant Director Jeff Reutter. "The challenge will be on the implementation side; that is to implement the 20 recommendations in this report."

Harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie most often consist of Microcystis, a cyanobacterium -- more commonly called blue-green alga -- and can produce a number of toxins hazardous to the ecosystem, animals and people. The toxins can be removed from drinking water drawn from the lake, but the process increases the cost of water treatment.

In addition, harmful algal blooms can severely reduce tourism income, as recreational water use is made dangerous by the toxin, or unpleasant by layers of blue-green algae floating on the water's surface.

The task force will continue to meet on a regular basis for further evaluation and publication of state and regional phosphorus management efforts.

The complete report can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/mhdmrkb.