PORT CLINTON, OH — After visiting Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island this morning, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined local economic development officials and business owners to discuss efforts to improve water quality and outline the impact on Lake Erie tourism and economic growth.

“Our fishing and tourism industries depend on a healthy Lake Erie,” Brown said. “But, harmful algal blooms can threaten the health of those industries, along with the health of our people and communities. That’s why we all must work together – community leaders, business owners, farmers – to solve this problem.”

On the Miller Ferry Catawba Dock, Brown joined Bill Market, owner of Miller Boat Line, and Dave Spangler, a local charter boat captain, who discussed the importance of a healthy Lake Erie to their businesses.  Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shoes and Islands, and Maggie Beckford, executive director of the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, also joined Brown and released data on the economic impact on the region’s tourism and recreation.

According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. In Erie County alone, tourism has generated $1.5 billion and is responsible for creating 10,757 full-time jobs. Ottawa County’s economic impact was $346 million with tourism-related employment accounting for 2,804 positions. Tourism sustained 26 percent of salaried employment in Erie County and 16.5 percent in Ottawa County.

Brown is the cosponsor of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA), which would protect the Great Lakes—and the millions of jobs they support—from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species like harmful algal blooms by fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. 

GLRI funding has helped support the control of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality. In May, Congress passed a critical water infrastructure bill that includes an amendment introduced by Brown that would help prevent the invasion of Asian carp into the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins.

This week’s funding comes after Brown secured $3 million in funding from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help farmers enroll in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides resources for producers to implement conservation practices, including preventive measures to reduce phosphorus runoff and prevent pollution in the Lake Erie Watershed. Just one week after Brown’s announcement on August 19, NRCS received more than 450 applications to plant cover crops on 86,000 acres. Because of increased participation in EQIP, NRCS released additional funding to meet the need.

Brown is committed to ensuring that all Ohioans have access to clean, safe, and affordable water. He helped establish the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that will provide up to $1.2 billion nationwide for farmers to implement conservation measures, including those that could reduce runoff into Lake Erie. The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative, a partnership among Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, has advanced to the next stage of consideration for a $20 million federal award – $13 million of which would go to Ohio.

Brown has also announced plans to reintroduce the Clean Water Affordability Act, which would direct additional funding to communities in Ohio to eliminate combined sewer overflows, which are a contributing factor in harmful algal blooms. Brown first introduced this legislation with former Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) in 2008 and worked with local officials across Ohio to fine-tune the bill. Brown will reintroduce the bill this fall.