By Jessica Ferrato
From my earliest memories I have had a profound appreciation of the power and significance of water in shaping the natural environment and defining human existence. From family trips to Edgewater Beach back when swimming was prohibited, to spending my childhood summers exploring the wetlands along the towpath and the mighty Cuyahoga, to discovering the thrills of whitewater kayaking, sailing and SCUBA as a young adult, water has drawn me and to a large degree carved my path in life, defining my academic pursuits, my career choices, my passions, where I choose to live and play.
Water plays such a vital role in all of our lives, falling from our skies and running beneath our feet, indeed coursing through our very veins, connecting us all, that when it comes to our waters, we are all environmentalists; we cannot afford to be otherwise.
When Steve McPhee asked me to Chair Northeast Ohio Sierra Club’s Water Committee, it couldn’t have come at a better time. After spending some time working as a fisheries biologist on Alaska fishing vessels, I have spent the last two years in Northeast Ohio gathering hydrology and water quality data for Cleveland Metroparks and documenting the construction of their new Watershed Leadership Center in Parma, and the better part of this past year developing a network of water stewards and citizen activists in Northeast Ohio in collaboration with Lake Erie Waterkeeper.
I’ve heard from groups of citizens who are concerned about the effects of fracking, CSOs and other practices on our groundwater, rivers and drinking water, and considered the various ways to approach these issues. I’ve talked to recreational users about the water-based activities that are important to them, and how issues like clean water and access affect our enjoyment of our natural waterways. I’ve worked with watershed organizations, student groups and other partners on various restoration projects and stormwater management practices in our watersheds. And, I’ve tried to keep abreast of and share news and current events as regards our local rivers and our Great Lake.
I’m very excited about the opportunity to do all of this and more as a member of this remarkable organization. If you are a member of the Northeast Ohio Water Committee, or would like to join, I welcome your feedback about what water issues are important to you, what projects we might add to our agenda for the coming year, and what goals you would like us to accomplish as a group. I promise to bring my own ideas and energy to the table, and I’m anxious to hear what drives you as well. I’m looking forward to serving with you, and hope to see you at a committee meeting or group outing in the near future!