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Conservation Group Fears Damage To Lake Erie From Shale Development

Brian Bull

 A report from a conservation group names the Lake Erie watershed among the top ten “special places” that need to be protected, but not everyone agrees on what the lake and its tributaries most need to be protected from.

The group, Trout Unlimited, hopes its report serves as a call to action for its 155,000 members as well as fish and wildlife agencies. The group fears that Utica Shale development will hurt the Lake Erie watershed, through water withdrawals from both the lake and the rivers that feed it, as well as the storage of wastewater in deep injection wells across the region.

Katy Dunlap, Trout Unlimited’s Eastern Water Project Director, says her group isn’t anti-shale—but they want to highlight the many important and delicate waterways across the Central Appalachian region.

“You know, there are some places that are so special and isolated and unique, maybe shale gas development shouldn’t be happening there, but there are other places where it can happen as long as it’s limited in a way to protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat,” Dunlap says.  

But some local anglers see more immediate and prominent threats, particularly fertilizer runoff that’s been causing dramatic algal blooms in the lake during the summer months.  Mike Durkalec, an aquatic biologist with Cleveland Metro Parks, ticks off the issues worrying him and fellow fishermen along the Rocky River.

“Non-native species is another one,” he says. “One big one that affects this particular fishery is the sea lamprey, a non-native species of parasitic fish that does have an effect on the sport fish that these anglers are pursuing.”

Trout Unlimited says annually, an estimated 450,000 people fish the Ohio waters of Lake Erie.