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State of Ohio 1998 State of the Lake Report

July 9, 1998


HURON, OHIO - The state's first comprehensive report on Ohio's Lake Erie conditions was released June 18, 1998 by Governor George V. Voinovich at Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve, which adjoins Lake Erie just east of Sandusky.  The report, which was prepared by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission at the Governor's request, rates the Lake as "*excellent"* for fishing and tourism; "*good"* for water quality, biological resources, coastal recreation, boating and beaches; and "*fair"* for pollution sources, habitat, and shipping.
In addition to providing information on historical trends, the 1998 Lake Erie Quality Index establishes goals and scoring systems that will allow for consistent evaluation of progress in the future.  Governor Voinovich said, "In the last three decades, a lot of public and private money has been spent on programs and activities to improve Lake Erie.   In many cases, the results have been impressive.  Other areas still need work.  I commend the Ohio Lake Erie Commission for thoroughly and honestly assessing Ohio's Great Lake, and giving the public some insight on where future challenges lie."   

>From an environmental perspective, Lake Erie's water quality is much clearer, pollution from wastewater treatment plants has decreased significantly, and the Lake provides an exceptional source of high quality drinking water.  However, more work is needed to minimize fish consumption advisories, remove contaminated sediment, and reduce bacterial pollution that results in beach advisories.  In addition, ambitious goals have been set to reduce pollution from nonpoint sources (any pollutant source other than the end of a pipe).  Nonpoint source pollution is the primary cause today of continued degradation of Lake Erie. 

>From a biological resources standpoint, the rating is "*excellent"* for key species.  For example, bald eagles have made a remarkable comeback over the past 20 years, from near extinct to their present population of 46 nesting pairs throughout Ohio.  However, the diversity of fish species in the nearshore areas is only "*fair."*  Fish communities, used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health, are being impacted by habitat loss and pollution, primarily from nonpoint sources.

Recreational resources were rated "good."  For the most part, people are satisfied with existing resources, but would like to see more areas and facilities available.  Fishing was rated "excellent."  Lake Erie, still known as the walleye capital of the world, generates an estimated $1 billion in economic value annually.  Overall, the economic impact of Lake Erie, including tourism, has increased as the Lake has improved.

Governor Voinovich also presented a special recognition award to Ohio artist Ben Richmond, whose depiction of the Marblehead Lighthouse is featured on the Lake Erie license plate.  Mr. Richmond generously donated his time and artistry to develop the first Great Lakes environmental license plate.   In addition, he has contributed significantly to the promotion of the Lake Erie license plate program through displays in his galleries along Lake Erie's shoreline and his active community work in Ohio's western basin.

The lighthouse is a recognizable symbol on more than 60,000 Ohio vehicles each year.  Since its introduction in 1993, the Lake Erie License Plate has become the most popular specialty plate in the state.  More than 234,000 Ohioans have purchased the Lake Erie license plate during the past five years, generating more than $3.5 million for the Lake Erie Protection Fund.  Ohio's Lake Erie Protection Fund has helped finance more than 100 Lake Erie related research, restoration, and implementation projects since 1992.

Following the release of the report, the Governor took reporters on a specially arranged canoe trip through the Old Woman Creek estuary, where a pair of bald eagles nests.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission was created in 1990 to focus additional attention and resources on protecting and restoring Lake Erie.  The Commission is comprised of the directors of Ohio EPA and the departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Health, Transportation and Development.  The Lake Erie Office opened in 1992 in Toledo to serve the Commission.  Copies of the Lake Erie Quality Index may be obtained from the Ohio Lake Erie Office, One Maritime Plaza, 4th Floor, Toledo, Ohio 43604-1866, (419) 245-2514.

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For more information, contact:
Patricia Madigan, Governor's Office  		Carol Hester, Ohio EPA
(614)644-0957     					(614)644-2160