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  • The Blade

    OSU lands $4.9M federal grant to train 'climate-ready' workforce along Lake Erie shoreline

    By By Tom Henry / The Blade,

    2024-06-12

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=19U4vi_0toqMG4o00

    The Biden Administration is spending $60 million to provide more climate-adaptation training to students living in nine ecosystems, including the western Lake Erie shoreline between Toledo and Cleveland.

    Ohio State University is getting $4.85 million of Inflation Reduction Act money to make first-ever “climate-ready” training affordable for the next generation of Great Lakes hydrologists, shoreline engineers, water treatment plant operators, and other jobs that have a focus on anything from chronic algal blooms to fluctuating water levels.

    Lorrayne Miralha, an OSU assistant professor of watershed modeling and data analytics, said she was thinking of algae-related nutrients and runoff when her team put together a proposal for the funding.

    “Our goal is to train at least 100 climate-ready workers,” she said, adding that she expects to begin training this August.

    The OSU researcher plans to recruit, in part, from Toledo’s Junction Coalition. One goal of the program is to seek out promising talent from underserved communities, and Ms. Miralha told The Blade she’s impressed by the trust that group has built up with the citizens it serves.

    There will be several levels of training for various jobs, “all water-related jobs, all water industry jobs,” Ms. Miralha said.

    The Junction Coalition was created in response to the algae-driven 2014 water crisis, which made Toledo’s tap water unsafe to drink or touch on the first weekend of August of that year.

    Ms. Miralha said she’s working with 12 other professors. The grant focuses on two communities: Sandusky and Lorain, in addition to Toledo and Cleveland.

    Scudder Mackey, chief of the Office of Coastal Management the Ohio Department of Natural Resources maintains in Sandusky, said he’s familiar with the goals of the first-ever “climate-ready workforce” being planned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    “OSU is ideally suited for that purpose,” Mr. Mackey said.

    His agency, and many others, has been following climate change impacts affecting the Great Lakes region, such as more frequent and intense storms, and fluctuating lake levels.

    This April saw a record for rain in the Toledo area, and NOAA’s preliminary forecast calls for a medium-to-large algal bloom on western Lake Erie again this summer.

    “ODNR is very supportive of a climate-ready workforce,” he said.

    Climate change “strains the water systems we have, as well as how water flows off the land," he said.

    “We need to train people to think differently and come up with more innovative solutions,” Mr. Mackey said.

    Investing more in young people who want careers evolving with climate change “are investments worth making," he said.

    Mr. Mackey said the White House initiative should complement efforts undertaken by Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio program, including the Ohio DNR’s construction of more new and expanded wetlands.

    “We need to be flexible in our thinking," Mr. Mackey, a longtime engineer, said. “We can't be as conservative as we have been. I can't guarantee everything we do is going to work, but we've got to try.”

    During a 48-minute news conference with journalists nationally, senior NOAA officials explained why they believe the program is a necessary, proactive measure to take before climate change gets worse.

    A member of Mr. Biden’s cabinet, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, opened the conference by calling plans for a climate-ready workforce “incredibly exciting” and a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “The impacts of the climate crisis are diverse and the skills needed to address it are diverse," she said “We have to be proactive about training folks to get the jobs that are available.”

    Some assistance will be available for expenses such as child care, transportation, and other costs that have been barriers for people in traditionally underserved communities who would like to seek training for good-paying jobs, Ms. Raimondo said.

    Jainey K. Bavishi, deputy NOAA administrator and assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said there are “escalating risks” in each of the nine ecosystems chosen for funding.

    Jonathan Pennock, NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program director, said response to the program was overwhelming, with 95 applications and $615 million requested. The administration chose fewer than one of every 10 applicants for funding, he said.

    The program is a “first of its kind for NOAA,” he said.

    Of the $60 million, $10 million will be dedicated to technical assistance to grantees.

    Frank Niepold, NOAA Climate-Ready Workforce program manager, said business partners are sought for each of the nine ecosystems to help with job placement.

    “Definitely, water quality and algal blooms are what is at the top,” he said of the Lake Erie program being funded.

    Other ecosystems chosen for funding are in American Samoa and Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Louisiana, Washington state, Los Angeles, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Texas.

    NOAA is hosting an online webinar Dec. 3-5 for interested people to learn more.

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