There's still time for more blue-green algae outbreaks in state water bodies this year, according to U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
In a statement Wednesday, the lawmaker said 126 reports of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, occurring in 87 lakes and streams within the first 10 months of 2015 are too many. With the year not yet over, these numbers could rise if mitigation efforts aren't supported, he said.
Among the seven counties comprising central New York, 24 reports of blue-green algae have been reported, so far, in 2015. Seven of those were in Cayuga County. This summer, algal blooms were detected in Lake Como, Owasco and Seneca lakes as well as in tributaries, Dutch Hollow and Sucker Brook.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Schumer requested the agency step up funding to two programs administered by the agency as stipulated in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Increasing funding amounts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program will help farmers decrease agricultural runoff, a contributing factor to blue-green algal blooms, Schumer wrote. These programs provide direct financial assistance to farmers in support of manure management and conservation efforts.
Schumer encouraged the USDA to prioritize grant allocations by dedicating additional funding to program applicants who specifically seek to combat algal blooms by mitigating phosphorus runoff, a prominent nutrient in manure.
"I commend USDA for its continued support in fighting the spread of this highly toxic algae, however devoting more funding from these programs will help ensure that our water continues to be safe to boat, fish, and most importantly drink for years to come," the senator wrote.
Schumer said apportioning additional funding to help stop the prevalence of algal blooms not only protects drinking water and public health, relative to people and pets that swim and recreate in state waters, but the funds will ensure vibrant local economies.
“We need to take action to limit and treat the spread of these toxic algal blooms which can cause frequent beach closures, loss of fish and wildlife and even human illnesses. These toxic blooms not only threaten our ecosystems and public health, but also the revenue generated by tourism and fishing upon which our Upstate economy relies,” Schumer said during a conference call with reporters.