Friday, June 27th, 2008
By Shelley Grieshop
County to help Celina with $6 million dredging project
  The Mercer County commissioners have agreed to be the applicant for a grant the city of Celina needs to help fund a $6 million sediment removal project for Grand Lake.
The project, which has been in the planning phase for about three years, involves removing approximately 10 feet of sediment from across the lake's bottom and pumping it to county-owned land west of Celina. If the funding is obtained by the end of the year, the first leg of the project could be completed in 2010, Celina Planning and Community Development Director Kent Bryan said.
The city hopes to get more than $1 million through a combination grant and low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Department of Development. Only cities with populations under 10,000 can apply for these grants or loans, and Celina has a population of 10,303, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Bryan asked USDA officials for an exemption so the city could submit an application for the grant/loan, but "it isn't likely," he told county commissioners during a meeting earlier this week.
Therefore, commissioners agreed to apply for the money through the county, which is eligible for rural development funding in accordance with USDA regulations. Officials won't know if they get the funding award until this fall, Bryan said.
The USDA funding likely would be the main funding source for the project, however, Bryan doubts it will provide enough money to pay for the whole project. He intends to seek funds from five or six other sources. Obtaining secondary funding should be easier once the main funding source is secured, he added.
Bryan said several state and federal officials already have given their approval for the sediment removal plan.
The benefit of the dredging project includes a cleaner lake, better quality drinking water, reduced water treatment costs, increased water volume and improved boating and fishing, Bryan said during an interview with The Daily Standard. Grand Lake and the surrounding Wabash Watershed has been identified by Ohio EPA as one of the most degraded in the state.
The first phase of the project would begin at a shallow 1-mile area of the lake bordered by U.S. 127, West Bank Road and Lake Shore Drive, where Governor's Cup Regatta races are held each year. A small island would be built 2,500 feet off the lake's shore with a pipe buried beneath it, extending west along the lake bottom.
The sediment would be pumped from the lake through the pipe by Grand Lake St. Marys State Park workers to county-owned property at the corner of Fleetfoot Road and state Route 29. At the site would be five drying ponds - situated on 20 acres - where excess water from the sediment would drain and flow into a wetland area. The water then would run across a filter area of specially-planted vegetation and into Beaver Creek.
Currently, the county's 60-acre site consists of rented farmland, a woods and a filter strip area.
Bryan, who is spearheading the project, said the sediment removed from the lake could be used by the county and surrounding communities.
"It's dirt, good rich top soil," he said, adding the city has successfully used it for several projects including the grassy area along the newly-created walkway parallel to West Bank Road.
The sediment also might be of interest to private companies who are willing to pay for it, Bryan said. Any profit made from the sales could help fund the dredging project, he added.
The sediment - which mainly comes from erosion of area farmland - contributes to the mucky, polluted water in the lake. It's time to do something about it, Bryan said.
"We may not see the benefits for 10 years," he said. " But if we don't start, it won't ever get better."
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