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What is the impact on the recreational activities and economy due to the increased algal bloom?

Currently we do not have studies or opinion surveys to provide a definitive answer as to the impact of blooms on recreation or the economy. However, many people can provide anecdotal evidence of the water quality changes that have been occurring.  There has also been increasingly widespread recognition by recreation users of the Western Basin that algal blooms are occurring. The "green water conditions" that have been observed in recent summers by many Lake Erie visitors and the much more severe conditions at Grand Lake St. Mary’s has focused media attention and increased public knowledge of the threats from blue green algae. Potential impacts on recreational use will likely result if these conditions continue and beach closures increase due to blue green algae. A correlation between reduced fishing success and the increases in algae has also been suggested although not confirmed. Studies are underway to identify the management practices that will reduce the excess nutrients entering the Lake and thereby reducing the algae blooms and any negative consequences resulting from these blooms. Additional studies may be needed to determine the impact if the blooms are not brought under control in the near future and there is a need to justify more costly nutrient control strategies. 

As we study the impact, we need to examine both short-term and long-term effects of the blooms. Short-term impacts may include decreased use of recreational facilities, such as beaches, marinas, etc. This has an impact on our quality of life, as well as the economy. From an economic standpoint, decreased use will result in less revenue for fishing charters, marina owners, etc., as well as those businesses who support these industries, such as fishing license vendors, hotels, and nearby restaurants. 

There is also a long-term impact that may occur as the images and messages of a degraded Lake Erie are spread through the media and word of mouth. Even if the blooms occur only periodically, those less familiar with Lake Erie could generalize these images and perceive the lake as being less attractive and valuable. What long-term consequences does this have on our ability to attract new visitors, residents, businesses, and jobs? In addition, decreased tax revenues generated by communities and states due to less sales and spending by users could impact long-term funding of other important programs, such as social service functions, economic development activities, and infrastructure maintenance and development. 

So as we look at the potential impacts, we must examine the chain of events that may occur. 

Ed Hammett, Ohio Lake Erie Commission

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