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Policymakers, Advocates Join FitzGerald for Lake Erie Summit

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Rich Luchette:

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald today met with more than a dozen Northeast Ohio stakeholders to discuss a comprehensive strategy for emergency preparation following last week’s drinking water ban in the Toledo area.

“It’s critical that all of us work together to formulate a comprehensive strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of Lake Erie and effectively respond to any emergencies that might arise,” said FitzGerald. “Today’s meeting is an important step towards enacting a collaborative regional effort that will strengthen the economy of Cuyahoga County and provide significant benefits for all of Northeast Ohio.”

FitzGerald was joined by Cuyahoga County Director of Regional Collaboration Jennifer Scofield, who he appointed last year as the first director of LakeStat – a performance measurement strategy that highlights key objectives and metrics regarding the health and viability of Lake Erie. Since its launch in August 2013, LakeStat has become the focal point of FitzGerald’s efforts to promote long-term accountability and transparency around Northeast Ohio’s most valuable natural resource.

Over the past week, LakeStat has provided the infrastructure to collect information and communicate following the drinking water emergency in Toledo. Monday’s discussion focused on developing a comprehensive strategic approach to responding to emergency situations on Lake Erie like the harmful algal blooms that are believed to have contaminated drinking water in Northwest Ohio earlier this month. Officials in the Toledo area were forced to enact a temporary drinking water ban until measures could be taken to ensure safety for residents.

"Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga are the historic and economic heart of Cuyahoga County,” added Lou McMahon, LakeStat Loaned Executive and partner at McMahon DeGulis LLP. “LakeStat is an effort to provide the public and all stakeholders and those interested in these water resources with a source of relevant information and metrics. Integrating multiple planning efforts through common metrics brings coordination and efficiencies that can expedite improvements in water quality, access, use and economic development."

Although harmful algal blooms are not believed to post an immediate risk to Northeast Ohio today, they constitute a regional, cross-jurisdictional concern that requires a coordinated response to protect the Ohio’s tourism industry, shoreline property values, and the commercial fishing industry that provides at least $4 billion annually for the state’s economy. In addition to harmful algal blooms, participants discussed other issues facing Lake Erie, including river dredging waste disposal and the protection of Irishtown Bend.

Cuyahoga County officials also announced an upcoming Water Disruption Planning Workshop that is tentatively slated for later this month. The workshop, which will be held at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District offices in Cuyahoga Heights, will bring together representatives from the many agencies and organizations that would have a role in responding to or recovering from a large-scale water emergency to review Cuyahoga County's preparedness for a prolonged, large-scale disruption to the county's water distribution system. - See more at: