A Word about Water Resources

No matter who you are or where you’re from, clean water is essential to your daily life. Always has been, always will be.  And yet it’s easy to take for granted. Most of us don’t think much about where our water is coming from or worry about its cleanliness on a daily basis. I must admit I’m biased coming from the Sea Grant world, but I was a bit surprised at how little the topic came up in the Futuring discussions at Annual Conference. Obviously things like economics and education will continue to be drivers of society. But to be able to focus on those major pillars, we need to continue to improve the management of our water resources.

Clean Water 2014-12-18

Photo credit: Ohio Sea Grant

That is precisely the mission of Sea Grant; to provide programs that lead to the responsible use of our water resources through informed decisions. That covers a lot of ground, so we break it down into four main focus areas:

  • Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
  • Resilient Communities and Economies
  • Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development

If you have questions on anything Lake Erie related, Ohio Sea Grant has you covered. We’ve recently been in the news for our work on things like harmful algae blooms (HABs) and phosphorus, but we’ve also been hard at work battling aquatic invasive species, creating resilient communities and engaging the next generation of environmental leaders.

OSU Extension Sea Grant Lake Erie Charter Boat Captains

Photo credit: Ken Chamberlain

Personally, I’m currently focused on the Sustainable Fisheries aspect. There are over 650 charter boat captains licensed to fish on Ohio’s Lake Erie, and for many of them fishing is a way of life. Ohio’s charter boat fleet is the largest in the Great Lakes and one of the largest in the world. That fleet is a major economic driver for Ohio’s coastal economies, and a healthy Lake Erie is essential to their success.

We partner with Lake Erie charter captains on a variety of programs throughout the year from youth fishing programs to monitoring HABs. The longest running example is the Annual Ohio Charter Captains Conference. The program covers laws and requirements, fisheries management, best business practices, new technology and equipment, and the health of Lake Erie. We typically see 25% of the licensed captains in attendance, and 74% of responding captains in 2014 stated that information from the conference will help to keep their business going or advance professionally.

The 34th Annual Ohio Charter Captains Conference is scheduled for March 7, 2015 at BGSU Firelands Campus in Huron, Ohio. Contact me (gabriel.78@osu.edu) to learn more about the conference or to ask any questions regarding Lake Erie. For information on Ohio Sea Grant visit ohioseagrant.osu.edu.

Have a happy holiday season, and enjoy the water!

(Submitted by Tory Gabriel, Fisheries Outreach Coordinator, Ohio Sea Grant Program)

Is YOUR community ready to attract new investment?

While many communities have assets that are attractive to those who currently live, play and conduct business there, do these communities have what it takes to attract new residents and businesses? Major corporations and others may invest millions of dollars in a community and don’t take the decision lightly.

According to economic and community development consultant, Carol Johnson, most communities all say the same things. She says what site consultants and prospects fear most when they visit a potential site is the local team will talk too much and waste their time!

Site Prep 2014-12-18According to Johnson, to be prepared “The local team needs to understand that every facet of your site is quantitatively ranked and each industry, each project will rank you differently.” In other words, the local team needs to convey the unique things they have to offer each individual prospect and be able to prove it. Corporations are obsessed with “risk avoidance” which means the local team must remove any mystery or perceptions of risk.

Successful communities have created a team that includes the local experts in the areas of:  utilities (e.g., gas, electric, water and waste water), industry, infrastructure, workforce, taxation and incentives. It is key that the local team can convey credibility and expertise when responding to prospect needs. It is especially critical that the local team can stand behind their commitments to meet project timelines and ensure project confidentiality.

So where might a community begin? Start first with an understanding of community assets. Second, be able to document these assets – how do the assets meet requirements of the prospect? Third, understand the key drivers of the prospect’s decision. KNOW THEM, UNDERSTAND THEM and CONFIRM THEM several times; prospects often change their minds. Last, understand that prospects make final decisions based on return on investment and their ability to minimize or overcome risk – perceived and real.

Are you SURE your team is ready?  Learn more on this topic at: ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/pdf/1504.pdf and ohioline.osu.edu/lines/comun.html#econdev.

(Submitted by: Cynthia Leis, Extension Educator and Van Wert City Economic Development Director)

Watershed planning for Great Lakes communities

Most every decision we make results in some sort of impact. Take our development decisions, for example. In some way, they impact sustainability. How can we better understand the impact of our decisions?

Tipping Points & Indicators 2014-12-04

Tipping Points and Indicators is a collaborative program that gives land use planners, natural resources managers and stakeholder groups in the Lake Erie Watershed the information they need to enhance local economies and protect natural resources. Using its decision support system and action planning process, communities can determine how close a watershed is to the thresholds (or “tipping points”) that might change the way aquatic ecosystems function and pinpoint the land use practices driving them.

Tipping Points and Indicators is a new Great Lakes research and Extension program comprised of a web-based, data driven decision support system and a facilitated community visioning and action planning process designed to enable effective protection and management of natural resources throughout Great Lakes. The web-based portion is available at tippingpointplanner.org.  The facilitated portion yields an action plan that includes an overview of the current community status and whether the community is nearing or exceeding Great Lakes tipping points. It also provides customized education strategies, example policies and sample ordinances to improve current conditions. The program is targeted to land use planners, natural resources managers and stakeholder groups with an interest in assessing community sustainability using Great Lakes tipping points.

Research team members identified land use indicator variables that determine the threshold, or tipping points, that when exceeded can impact aquatic ecosystems. Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Extension Specialists developed the associated website and facilitation process that guide community groups through an interactive watershed action planning process. Touch screen monitors are used to enable community groups to collaborate and explore the website, tools and GIS maps to determine planning priorities linked to community values.

The overall program goal is to enable the development of sustainable, watershed-specific land use strategies. The Tipping Points and Indicators planning process is facilitated by Great Lakes Sea Grant specialists. Contact your state facilitator and request a planning workshop for your community.

(Submitted by: Joe Lucente, Assistant Professor and Extension Educator, Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Ohio State University Extension)