Erie groups unveil document to protect Great Lake
What’s the number one factor $1 billion in tourism to northwest Pennsylvania, particulary in the metropolitan region of Erie? It’s the natural treasure of Lake Erie.
On Thursday, 13 organizations released a new blueprint designed to protect the Lake Erie Watershed in Pennsylvania from threats like plastics pollution, climate change, invasive species and surface runoff, among others.
The 50-page document, called “Our Water, Our Future: A Common Agenda for Protecting Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie Watershed,” identifies threats to water quality in the Lake Erie Watershed of Pennsylvania and recommends solutions to those threats.
Spanning several months, the document was created by 13 Erie region partner organizations, as well as a Technical Advisory Committee composed of regional scientists that helped develop the agenda. Partner organizations included Hold Erie Coke Accountable, Keep Erie County Beautiful, Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park, Lake Erie Region Conservancy, Our Water Our Air Our Rights, PennFuture, Pennsylvania Lake Erie Watershed Association, Presque Isle Audubon, Sierra Club — Lake Erie Group, S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie, and Whole Foods Co-Op.
The overarching theme is for Erie to increase protection for water resources through inclusive decision making processes and policies that lead to sustainable, equitable communities. “This Common Agenda symbolizes all the promise a healthier environment holds for Erie,” said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo. “There is only one viable path forward for a city that defines itself by the magnificent Lake Erie: clean water should be embraced as a centerpiece of future economic development; all neighborhoods deserve and must have improved access to lake-based recreation; and elected officials who aspire to make their communities better places to live and invest in must prioritize projects and policies that improve and protect water quality.”
Bonomo also said the lake is responsible for about $40 million coming to the region’s economy from the sport of fishing as Lake Erie is world renowned for its walleye and bass.
Erie resident Sarah Bennett — the Campaign Manager for Clean Water Advocacy for PennFuture, and the lead author of the agenda — said that clean water needs to be at the center of every policy discussion moving forward. “This document is meant to call attention to threats and inequities, suggest solutions, and promote collaboration to implement solutions that will lead Erie to a more equitable and sustainable future that protects our most important natural resource – our water,” she said. “Erie needs to carefully consider the impacts of development on its water resources and current residents to ensure that decisions are made that promote long-term transformation rather than short term economic gains.”
Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition, said serious threats to Lake Erie remain despite an uptick in federal investments to help restore the lake. “We also support the report’s emphasis to bring to the table communities that historically have been left out of environmental decision-making, so that the people who have disproportionately borne the brunt of pollution and environmental harm can be prioritized as we look to restore Lake Erie and the communities that rely upon them,” she said.