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Development of an Assessment Tool for Agricultural Best Management Practice Iimplementation in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Priority Watersheds—Alger Creek, Tributary to Saginaw River, Michigan

November 19, 2015

The Great Lakes face a number of serious challenges that cause damage to water quality, habitat, ecology, and coastal health. Excess nutrients from point and nonpoint sources have a history of causing harmful algal blooms (HABs); since the late 1990s, a resurgence of HABs have forced beach closures and resulted in water quality impairments across the Great Lakes. Studies increasingly point to phosphorus (P) runoff from agricultural lands as the cause of these HABs. In 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was launched to revitalize the Great Lakes. The GLRI aims to address the challenges facing the Great Lakes and provide a framework for restoration and protection. As part of this effort, the Priority Watersheds Work Group (PWWG), cochaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA–NRCS), is targeting Priority Watersheds (PWs) to reduce the amount of P reaching the Great Lakes. Within the PWs, USDA–NRCS identifies small-scale subbasins with high concentrations of agriculture for coordinated nutrient reduction efforts and enhanced monitoring and modeling. The USDA–NRCS supplies financial and/or technical assistance to producers to install or implement best management practices (BMPs) to lessen the negative effects of agriculture to water quality; additional funding is provided by the GLRI through USDA–NRCS to saturate the small-scale subbasins with BMPs. The watershed modeling component, introduced in this fact sheet, assesses the effectiveness of USDA–NRCS funded BMPs, and nutrient reductions because of GLRI or other funding programs are differentiated. Modeling scenarios consider BMPs that have already been applied and those planned to be implemented across the small-scale subbasins.