Watershed Management Program
Investing in people for healthy streams and watersheds
Lake Erie Coastal NonPoint Pollution Control
Nonpoint source pollution includes:
- Contaminants that originate diffusely on the land and run off with rain or snow
- Sediment that erodes from unprotected construction sites, farm fields, and streambanks
- Bacteria and pathogens that enter the water from septic systems and combined sewer overflows
- Pesticides, fertilizers, road salt, pet waste, and heavy metals that wash off yards, parking lots, and golf courses.
Physical changes to tributary streams also cause significant water quality degradation. Known as "habitat alteration," these actions, including straightening, deepening, widening, damming or otherwise altering a river's natural form and flow cause the failure of many of Ohio's streams to meet water quality standards.
Nonpoint source pollution, which includes habitat alteration is now responsible for most water quality problems in Lake Erie and its tributaries. Whereas large point source polluters are more easily identified and regulated, almost everyone contributes to nonpoint source pollution on a daily basis. This makes controlling nonpoint source pollution a much greater challenge.
Ohio's 312 miles of Lake Erie shoreline is a great source of wealth and vitality for its residents and visitors. Forty-one percent of Ohio's citizens live within the Lake Erie basin and reap its many natural, scenic, and economic benefits every day. In fact, Lake Erie has rapidly become one of Ohio's most popular visitor destinations. The Ohio Department of Development estimates that the shoreline brings more than $2.5 billion per year in travel revenue to Ohio's economy, which represents one-third of the state's travel revenue. Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline is certainly a resource worth protecting and improving.
Significant pollution problems remain, despite the many strides that have been made in addressing point source pollution. Those who visit or live near Lake Erie often notice that after a heavy rain, the lake along the shore changes from clear to muddy brown. One might even find a favorite beach posted with warnings because of unsafe water quality. These are results of "nonpoint source pollution."
Lake Erie Nonpoint Issues
According to OEPA, habitat degradation and sedimentation are now the leading causes of aquatic life use impairment in Ohio streams and rivers. The origin, or source, of these causes of water pollution is mainly "hydromodification," physical changes to the stream or river. Nearly one quarter of all hydromodification related stream impairment is associated with suburban development.
Urban sprawl in recent years has expanded at an alarmingly rapid pace. Unfortunately, such fast-paced development has occurred without due consideration to the cumulative effects on water quality. As a result, urban sources of nonpoint pollutants, such as sediment from construction sites, combined sewer overflows, hydromodification, and stormwater runoff, are having an increasingly negative impact on water quality.
Urbanization tends to harden land and streams with concrete and asphalt. Therefore, water quality restoration alternatives are limited and expensive in the urbanized environment. For example, uncovering and restoring a culverted stream is much more costly than keeping development away from the stream during the planning phase.
Agriculture occupies approximately 70% of the land use in the Lake Erie basin and has a significant impact on the area's water quality. Although agriculture's widespread and noteworthy adoption of conservation tillage has reduced specific nonpoint source pollutants such as phosphorus, significant opportunities for improvement remain. Intensive agricultural practices, (e.g. larger fields, fewer types of crops, bigger equipment, concentrated livestock, and extensive drainage), particularly west of the Huron River, continue to alter streams and wetlands and contribute sediment and nutrients to coastal waters.
Other Nonpoint Issues
Alteration of the natural structure of the lakeshore, river mouths, and wetlands also contribute to water quality problems. Dam construction, shoreline modification, marina development, and diking are some of the activities causing such alteration. Significant stretches of numerous tributaries, many river mouths, and some nearshore areas within Lake Erie itself have sediment contamination problems due to these impacts. In addition, inadequate maintenance and failure of suburban and rural on-lot septic systems contribute nutrients and pathogens to Lake Erie.
The Ohio Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program Plan (CNPCP)
Complete program plan
Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program Plan (15.9 MB PDF)*
Specific chapters (PDFs from 12 KB to 200 KB each)
Chapter 1 (Introduction and Program Summary)*
Chapter 2 (General Program Overview)*
Chapter 3 (Management Measures for Agricultural Sources)*
Chapter 4 (Management for Forestry:Request for Exclusion for Forestry)*
Chapter 5 (Management Measures for Urban Areas)*
Chapter 6 (Management Measures for Marinas and Recreational Boating)*
Chapter 7 (Management Measures for Hydromodification)*
Chapter 8 (Management Measures for Wetlands and Riparian Areas)*
Chapter 9 (Additional Management Measures for Critical Coastal Areas and Impaired or Threatened Areas)*
Chapter 10 (Developing Sustainable Watershed Protection Programs)*
Chapter 11 (Water Quality Monitoring and Tracking Techniques)*
Chapter 12 (Conclusions)*
Chapter 13 (References and Bibliography)*
GUIDANCE FOR LAKE ERIE WATERSHED PROJECTS
Watersheds plans within the Ohio Lake Erie Basin must (others are strongly encouraged) describe how the following Management Measures of the Ohio Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program(CNPCP) will be implemented within the specific watershed, if watershed inventory or sources and causes of impairment indicate applicability. The following Guidance is provided to assist watershed coordinators meet the requirements of a fully endorsed watershed action plan;
Watershed Action Plan Guidance to Ohio Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program Plan* (124 KB PDF)
Watershed Map (553 KB PDF)
Lake Erie Links
Matt Adkins, Coastal NPS Coordinator
ODNR, Division of Soil & Water Conservation
105 West Shoreline Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
Directions to the Office of Coastal Management