Newly Formed Ohio Tri-River Alliance Secures $500,000 in Funding

April 8, 2022

The City of Defiance, Defiance College, and Senator Sherrod Brown worked together to secure funding to form the Ohio Tri-River Research Alliance (OTRA) in Defiance. The Alliance will receive $500,000 in government funding to research systemic problems associated with the Upper Maumee River Watershed.

a summer time picture of water spilling over the Indepence State Dam

"This funding will help keep pollution out of the rivers and streams that provide drinking water to millions of Ohioans," says Senator Brown. "Ohio's Tri-River Alliance is doing important work to improve water quality in the Maumee River basin and ultimately Lake Erie. These are some of our state's most vital resources, and that's why we worked together to support these efforts."

The Maumee River is the primary source of drinking water for the City of Defiance. In recent years, an abundance of nutrient runoff has led to harmful algal blooms. These algal blooms can be problematic for both drinking water treatment and managing the City's water supply.

"With assistance from Senator Brown," states Mike McCann, mayor of the City of Defiance, "the OTRA aims to address the underlying problem of nutrient runoff. This will be done through collaborative research, education, and training conducted by Defiance College faculty, staff, and students, and in direct partnership with experts from the City of Defiance."

A Maumee River Data Research Center will be established at Defiance College. The Center, a truly collaborative effort, will address an important problem in the area through the substantial efforts of all constituents. Science and policy have contributed to the problem and now will contribute to its solution. The data collection and analysis will be valuable for the City of Defiance and regional stakeholders who benefit from the Upper Maumee River Watershed region.

"Our project will enhance the ability of Defiance College to benefit the entire Defiance community and directly align with the principles and priorities outlined in the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative," says Dr. Richanne C. Mankey, president of Defiance College. "Our work focuses on reducing nonpoint source pollution from agriculture through improved effectiveness of management efforts."

For years, Defiance College faculty and students have been conducting water quality research on the Upper Maumee River Watershed and Lake Erie. In addition to many others, DC researchers have studied the decline of the Lake Erie water quality since the mid-1990s. They have noticed that the declining water quality has contributed to more toxic blooms of algae as well as increased low-oxygen events. DC students have recently conducted water quality research on the Maumee and Tiffin Rivers as part of the newly implemented STEM Summer Research Program.

As part of an inclusive local community alliance, high school students in Defiance County will also have opportunities to be a part of research initiatives that tackle issues directly attributable to the Defiance portion of the Upper Maumee River Watershed.

Harmful algal blooms impact more than drinking water; they also impact a watershed's biodiversity. As algae grow and die, it then falls to the bottom of the river. As it dies, bacteria decompose it, depleting oxygen in the water. Marine life is then forced to relocate to more oxygenated water to survive.

The OTRA is not only significant to the region and state but also has the opportunity to impact the national conversation around core issues of the Great Lakes and the agricultural-water conservation-water quality concerns. The Alliance aims to advance the goals of the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement by specifically implementing actions that work towards the binational phosphorus reduction targets adopted for the western Lake Erie basin. These targets call for a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus originating from the Maumee River.

The OTRA will be co-chaired by the president of Defiance College and the mayor of Defiance.

"Our goal is to work in direct partnership with the City's watershed management - especially in the agricultural sector. It is critically important for the College, City, and County to improve our local watershed data collection," continues Dr. Mankey. "The data is equally important to farmers and agribusiness in our region to ensure best practices are incorporated. Students at the college and high school level also will benefit from learning about science in the field and how that translates to data analysis and solutions."