December 3, 2020

PennFuture releases plan to protect Pennsylvania's Lake Erie Watershed

Local Groups Unveil Community-Driven Document to Protect Lake Erie 

Dec. 3, 2020 - (Erie, Pa.) - Lake Erie provides drinking water to more than 240,000 residents in northwestern Pennsylvania, and it serves as the centerpiece for a booming tourism industry that brings in more than $1.2 billion annually to the region. 

While we should do everything in our power to protect this vitally important natural resource, Lake Erie and its watershed are already facing a number of threats that jeopardize clean water and with it, the future of our region. For this reason, it is important to put protective measures in place now to ensure that these resources remain valuable and viable well into the future.

To that end, 13 local organizations on Dec. 3 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. 

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. PennFuture is grateful for the generosity of time, intellect and problem solving exhibited by all members of the community who took part in shaping this important document.”

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,” Bennett 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.”

Sister Pat Lupo, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Lake Erie Watershed Association, said Thursday that “we need to all work together to lessen our impact on the quality of water” in northwestern Pennsylvania, which can be achieved by implementing solutions within the Common Agenda. 

“The Common Agenda is a monumental initiative that addresses water quality from multiple levels of responsibility: individual and corporate; city, county, state and federal,” she said. “The threats are identified and now it is time to pool our resources and expertise to improve the quality of our waters today and for future generations.”

For Dave Skellie, board president of the Lake Erie Region Conservancy, the Common Agenda fits perfectly in line with his organization’s mission to identify, conserve and protect the region’s natural and cultural resources.

“Conserving open space and making it available to the public for passive recreational uses is what we do,” he said. “As such, LERC supports PennFuture’s Common Agenda and, in fact, is undertaking what this document’s Conclusion paragraph calls on Erie leaders to do: to promote clean water in our Lake Erie watershed by making ‘protection and conservation a centerpiece of any renewed vision for the region.’”

Finally, 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. 

“This blueprint for a restored Lake Erie and healthy communities will require state and federal elected officials to act now, before the problems get worse and more costly. Federal investments to restore the Great Lakes are producing results, but, as this report makes clear, serious threats remain," she said. “We look forward to working with local communities in Pennsylvania and across the region to safeguard and protect our clean water resources so that no one has to go without this basic human need. 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.”

Anyone interested in reading the Common Agenda can do so by clicking here.

Partner organizations that helped craft this Common Agenda include 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.


PennFuture is leading the transition to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania, fighting big polluters with legal muscle, enforcing environmental laws, and supporting legislative policy that protects public health. PennFuture is engaging and educating citizens about the realities of climate change, and giving them the tools needed to influence lawmakers on the issues. Visit for more information.
Jared Stonesifer
Director of Media Relations