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Working Group Releases Progress Report on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia in Great Lakes

Published on: 11/13/2020
Region(s) of Study: Waterbodies / Great Lakes
Primary Contact(s): david.kidwell@noaa.gov

The Interagency Working Group on Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (IWG-HABHRCA) has released a report to Congress that provides a comprehensive summary of all current federal agency efforts to address HABs and hypoxia in the Great Lakes region, and demonstrates the steps being taken by the current administration to mitigate their environmental, socioeconomic, and human health effects.

The report is an update to the 2017 report, and serves to inform policy makers, practitioners, resource managers, and stakeholders about scientific advances in understanding and monitoring these phenomena and the effectiveness of conservation approaches, land use practices, and nutrient reduction efforts toward minimizing their magnitude.

Daily satellite imagery of western Lake Erie basin during an August 2019 cyanobacterial bloom, including an Ocean and Land Color Instrument (OLCI)-derived true color image (left) and with concentrations depicted by the Cyanobacteria Index (CI; right). Credit: NOAA.

Since 2017, federal agencies in the IWG-HABHRCA have made progress in addressing the causes of HABs and hypoxia in the Great Lakes, which, in turn, has helped limit their impacts. Achievements since the 2017 progress report include: advances in detecting and forecasting harmful algal blooms and their toxins; new models showing when HABs threaten drinking water intakes; publications documenting the transport of nutrients into the Great Lakes and watershed conservation practices that limit their concentrations; and improved coordination with stakeholders through citizen science.

Addressing the issues of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia not only improves public health, but also reduces the negative economic impacts from declines in commercial fishing, recreation, and tourism revenues that may occur during these events.

The 2014 reauthorization of the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act (HABHRCA 2014; P.L. 113–124) acknowledges continued concerns related to harmful algal blooms and hypoxia, emphasizes the need for explained and ongoing monitoring and forecasting, extends the scope of the legislation to include freshwater HABs and hypoxia, and recognizes the need to further coordinate federal action to address these issues. Specifically, the legislation calls for the publication of a report that describes the proceedings of the IWG-HABHRCA and a plan for reducing, mitigating, and controlling hypoxia and HABs in the Great Lakes.

The IWG-HABHRCA published and transmitted to Congress the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia in the Great Lakes Research Plan and Action Strategy: An Interagency Report on August 24, 2017. After submitting the plan, HABHRCA requires biennial progress reports on the activities toward achieving the objectives of the plan. This 2020 progress report on Great Lakes activities follows this biennial progress report requirement. In addition, the IWG-HABHRCA published its first progress report, Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia in the United States: A Report on Interagency Progress and Implementation, on March 5, 2018 as a follow up to the 2016 Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Comprehensive Research Plan and Action Strategy: An Interagency Report.

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