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Advocate Says Lake Erie Algae Blooms Threaten 'Blue Economy'

Erik Drost

The term “green economy” refers to growth that’s environmentally friendly. The head of the Cleveland Water Alliance says there’s a new term growing in regional importance: the “blue economy.”

“The blue economy or water cluster added almost 1,000 net new jobs,” says Bryan Stubbs, leader of the Cleveland Water Alliance.

He said a new report from Cleveland’s NASA Glenn Research Center finds that water related jobs in Cuyahoga County grew faster in recent years than advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing and biotech combined. He told a Cleveland City Council subcommittee studying Lake Erie water quality that not taking care of the problems with toxic algae in the Lake and surrounding waterways would hurt that growth in a number of ways. 

“It’s about avoidance cost, and then the branding and exposure of this community that we’re all working damn hard to say, ‘This is what Cleveland looks like today. Come here cause we have jobs for you.’ If we have a dirty river, a green river, and a green lake, it’s not gonna happen,” Stubbs says.

Stubbs advocates using technology to monitor Lake Erie’s water in real time, taking the guesswork out of what he calls the blame game.  

The lake algae has been linked to phosphorus coming from farm fertilizer and livestock manure. Council member Mike Polensek noted the power of the well-funded and well-organized farm lobby. 

“If history tells us anything, we are not gonna be successful unless we have likewise lobbying efforts in Columbus,” Polensek says.

Members of the group agreed a coordinated effort is needed to ensure the region receives adequate resources from Gov. Mike DeWine’s new H2Ohio fund to protect water quality.

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.