Area selected for a pilot project to fight algae blooms by limiting agricultural run-off. (Map courtesy LTVCA)

Comment: Phosphorus Target Big Challenge

It’s a big number, but possibly not as big as some people had feared.

Federal governments in Canada and the United States or at least the environment divisions of those federal governments got together and decided the magic number is 40%.

That’s the reduction in phosphorus running into area watercourses that will be needed to shrink the almost annual algae bloom problem to almost nothing.

Now I’m not going to argue the science, I don’t know enough about science, but I have said in this column before that it is a problem we have to deal with, and we all knew, that if the problem wasn’t fixed voluntarily a solution would be imposed.

Usually people are not happy with imposed solutions . Some don’t work, some can’t work.

We have to remember too that municipal water treatment plants and other run-off have a roll to play and the search has to go on for an end to that problem. But let’s not kid ourselves. Agriculture is being asked to do a lot of the heavy lifting on this one.

The question is, is it doable? Can agriculture do it?

The short answer is yes. The real answer is yes, but, it likely will not be easy or cheap or quick

Even some conservation groups that want the change to happen admit that.

There are some pieces of good news in this, and being optimistic by nature they do give me a bit of hope.

First there is a lot of room for improvement on the American side. You may recall hearing that a huge percentage of the phosphorus that goes into the lake comes from the American side.

It seems American farmers haven’t been as quick to adopt conservation tactics like grassed water ways as their Canadian counter parts.

So actual target reductions, expressed in tons, is a lot larger on the American side. That is to reflect that more of the problem originates on the south side of the lake.

Another reason for optimism is the smart people, many or them farmers have been working on this solution for quite a while and they believe a solution is doable.

We are not starting from step one, we’ve learned a lot about run off over they years it is time to stop it.

Time spans are such that the plan, will be put in place over two years, and it is likely to take several more to implement it. So there is some time.

Take that time to take advantage of the programs and incentives that are and will be available.

And don’t ever. Spread manure on frozen ground. Just don’t.

Incentives aside it won’t be easy and there will be some blips along the way.

But whether 40 percent is the right number or not, whether the tonnage targets for the Canadian and American side reflect reality. Those are the targets.

It’s going to be an interesting challenge.