Friday, January 26th, 2007
By Janie Southard
Petitioners: open Grand Lake spillway in fall, winter
  There are 10 petitions, all asking the state to lower the water level of Grand Lake, being circulated door-to-door around the lake.
More than 200 signatures already have been gathered.
The petitions were crafted by Linda Conover and her husband, Gerald, whose home on the shoreline in the Northwood subdivision has flooded many times in recent years.
The Conovers also were part of more than 40 concerned citizens who met this week at Northmoor Golf Club along state Route 703 to discuss the lake level and lake maintenance.
"The main concern coming from the meeting is for an immediate drawdown (of lake water) to prevent spring flooding due to rain and winter melt-off," said Linda Conover, coordinator of the new grassroots initiative.
The group and those signing the petition are asking the state to perform a "conscientious fall drawdown of the lake level."
They want to have the water level lowered in the autumn and winter when there is no boating, but not during the boating season, Linda Conover said.
As recently as Jan. 16, Brian Miller, assistant manager at Grand Lake St. Marys State Park, said the Ohio Division of Parks does not draw down Grand Lake's level.
In 1997 when the new West Bank spillway was constructed, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources designated the spillway and lake as self-maintaining and self-regulating. The spillway is opened and closed twice a year to ensure the mechanism is functioning properly. The state never had plans to regulate the lake level through the spillway, Miller has said.
The petition claims the state wants the lake level high for fishermen, boaters and tourists; however, the petitioners say their straw poll shows "fishing on this lake is lousy" and "even tournaments are pulling out of our area."
The Conovers agree they've noticed a decline of pleasure boats on the lake, which they believe must mean area businesses also have noticed a decline in tourists.
Along with asking that the lake be lowered to prevent area flooding, the petition asks for state help for various improvement projects to the lake. It specifically mentions the state's failure to build "seven islands in the lake for spoil sites and wave deterrents."
Linda Conover said the telephone calls she's been getting in support of the grassroots effort have come from a diverse population and not just from lakeshore residents.
"We are all in this thing together - folks on the south side of lake, farmers all around the lake as well as north side residents," she said.
"We have questions that need answers: What happened to the plans to riprap the entire lake? What about those island building plans that would slow down some of the wave action?" she added. "We're still having to pump our yards."
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