U-M Water Center receives Erb grant to work with state on Lake Erie phosphorus reductions

February 28, 2023
Written By:
Alex Haddad, Graham Sustainability Institute

The University of Michigan Water Center received a $610,000, three-year grant from the Erb Family Foundation to work with the state of Michigan to reduce phosphorus loading to Lake Erie.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with the state on this very important work, and we applaud their vision in enlisting a third party to help coordinate their efforts,” said Jen Read, director of the Water Center and principal investigator. “Our work together will establish a dialogue between and among the many organizations and stakeholders involved in Lake Erie stewardship, resulting in a more resilient management plan, a more informed public and a healthier lake.”

The Water Center will provide technical and day-to-day collaborative support to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

The state agencies and the Water Center will work to understand and reduce Michigan’s nutrient runoff to Lake Erie, as well as design and implement a diverse, robust and transparent advisory process to inform the state’s adaptive management plan for the lake.

“The Water Center is a natural partner for working to achieve Gov. Whitmer’s phosphorus reduction goal. This joint project will expand the tools in the environmental stewardship toolbox while providing essential and timely science to effect change,” said Kathy Angerer, acting director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“This collaboration will support the foundation of clearly identifying and moving the needle in reducing nutrient loading in Michigan’s portion of Western Lake Erie Basin.”

Expected outcomes of this project include a transparent process for the public to provide input into the adaptive management process and a clear communication process for state agencies to track and report progress. In addition, they will be able to track and report how public input informed the Water Center’s subsequent work.

One key component of this project is the recruitment and convening of a diverse, multisector advisory group representing rural residents, agricultural services, environmental groups, equity concerns, water and energy utilities, lake and coastal businesses, and more. Together, these groups will provide a broad conduit for public input into adaptive management planning.

The project team will also recruit and convene a science advisory panel to advise on the risks and benefits associated with components proposed for Lake Erie’s management plan. With the multisector advisory group and science advisory panel, the team will develop a suite of metrics and indicators to complement ecosystem indicators in reporting on nutrient management progress. This work will contribute to the state’s annual adaptive management process.