NASA has offered, and the county has taken the option, on a couple hundred acres on the west side of the sprawling Plum Brook Research Station, for potential use as a site for a county water plant.
We're delighted the Erie County commissioners are bullish enough on the region's future to be contemplating a new water plant -- even with the need as much as 30 years away. We're even more delighted they are finding a way to work with NASA Plum Brook to put some of that land into productive use.
Critics, including us, point out the Huron and Sandusky water plants are operating well below capacity in a county where the population is declining and the industrial infrastructure is crumbling.
At the same time, critics, including us, have pushed for (and are beginning to note) efforts to reverse that trend, trying to attract new people and new money to the area -- including capitalizing on NASA Plum Brook's new role in testing the vehicles and equipment that will take us back to the moon and on to Mars. The people we hope to draw in will need water to drink.
So we'd like to think the water plant plans have everything to do with optimism, or at least being ready for the growth we hope will ensue.
However, we also have to consider what the county has to spend right now -- we're still on austerity, right? -- and think about making use of what we have now, such as two underutilized municipal water plants. And spending money to keep an option on land that might not be used for decades really needs a close second look. If this is about marking turf and having a plant the county can call its own, maybe even a third look is called for.
At any rate, thinking and talking about, and planning for, the future is a nice change of pace.