(The Blade)

The campaign to get western Lake Erie declared as a federally impaired body of water took on a new twist on Tuesday with an announcement that a coalition of environmental, fishing, and conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to take enough action.

The notice was sent Monday by Alliance for the Great Lakes, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Lake Erie Foundation, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, National Wildlife Federation, and the Ohio Environmental Council.

The groups contend the agency has an obligation under the federal Clean Water Act to make the optimal effort to save Lake Erie from toxic algae, which they believe can best be accomplished with a special designation that could open up more funding and better coordinate restoration efforts.

On Nov. 15, Lucas County commissioners likewise called on the U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to declare the lake’s western basin as impaired because of excessive algal-forming phosphorus.

Commissioners said Tuesday they “stand by that action and continue our call for the U.S. EPA to act and applaud the work of these organizations to ensure the health of Lake Erie for all residents of the Great Lakes region.”

Commissioners and proponents of the impaired designation point to a six-state federal program for the Chesapeake Bay —- the nation’s largest of its kind — that has been enhanced by a 2009 executive order issued by President Obama. They are seeking a similar order for western Lake Erie.

Under the Clean Water Act, a 60-day notice and waiting period is required before the U.S. EPA can be sued. During that time, the agency can reject or approve actions taken by the Ohio EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The Kasich administration has refused to declare the open water of western Lake Erie as impaired, citing concerns about it becoming a deterrent to business. It has designated shoreline areas near Toledo and Oregon, though.

The Michigan DEQ has declared the portion of western Lake Erie under its jurisdiction as impaired.