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Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Angry lake residents want to hear plan

Nutrient management strategy targets ag and non ag practices

By Nancy Allen

David Hanselmann, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division. . .

Almost 200 people came to Wright State University-Lake Campus on Monday to hear about a state-directed plan to help the community clean up Grand Lake, and when they didn't hear it, some got pretty mad.
Directors of Ohio's departments of natural resources, EPA and agriculture, three local legislators and a few others talked first - mostly in generalities about working together to implement the plan. ODNR Director Sean Logan was trying to wrap up the event with an invitation from the crowd to ask questions about the plan over cookies and punch when people started yelling.
"We didn't come here for a history lesson. All I've been hearing is promises I've been hearing for 40 years," shouted Bill Goodwin, who owns Kozy Kampground on the lake's south side. "My business is losing $100,000, we have 100 less boat docks, we got a campground that's never had a vacancy and I got 20 now ... when are you going to lift the (water contact) ban so we can start business."
Goodwin was referring to an advisory issued just prior to the Memorial Day weekend urging lake users to avoid contact with the water because a toxin produced by blue-green algae had been found in the lake. Excess nutrients in the lake, most of which runs off from farmland, is what feeds the algae, which produces the toxin.
Shortly after the advisory was issued, state, federal and local officials began meeting to create a nutrient management strategy for the lake. Monday's meeting was promoted as an event to release the plan, but state officials only wanted to answer questions about it after the formal press conference was done.
"The issue is, we came here to hear the plan, not to hear people say there is a plan," said Brenda Manning, owner of The Outdoorsman, a fishing and hunting supply store. "That's why we left our businesses today."
Finally after some more grumbling from the crowd and a quick huddle among the state heads, David Hanselmann, director of ODNR's Division of Soil and Water Resources, stepped to the front of the crowd and held up a copy of the plan and told the crowd 200 extra copies were available for them to take. Copies were handed out to everyone when they entered, but Hanselmann's reference to the document was the first. He then began to take questions on the document.
Hanselmann explained there is a large pollutant load (phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment) coming into the lake from agriculture production and that officials have been working the last eight months to create the streamlined nutrient management plan. He said he is optimistic that within two to three years, every one of the 300 livestock operations in the watershed would have a comprehensive nutrient management plan to help them better manage their manure and lessen runoff.
Buzz Goodwin, who operates Bayview Sun and Fun Marina on the lake, shouted that the entire lake needs dredged.
Hanselmann said it is not feasible to treat the entire 13,500-acre lake, but the state is looking at implementing technology at public recreation areas to decrease harmful algae blooms. The plan handed out Monday listed using aeration and water circulation devices around beach areas.
Just as clearly frustrated, ODNR Director Sean Logan said he understood the concern from lakeside business owners and said ODNR would not have called Monday's press conference if it was not committed to a solution. Logan said the reason the details of the plan were not discussed during the open part of the meeting is because people's "eyes would glaze over."
The plan is based in large part on the state-endorsed watershed action plan for Grand Lake, he said. He asked some of the shouting crowd members if they had read the action plan, to which none answered that they had.
"We get the sense of urgency ... but you're asking unrealistic questions," Logan said. "This is going to have to be a participatory thing, a community-wide solution."
A crowd member asked if the objectives in the plan announced Monday were voluntary.
"The plan is not voluntary for the 15 CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, also known as mega farms) in the watershed, but it is for the rest of the ag operations," answered Robert Boggs, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
State Rep. Jim Zehringer, R-Fort Recovery, said he and Mercer County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Chris Gibbs met recently with 100 farmers in the watershed about the new plan and farmers are ready to embrace it.
"We told them there's going to be a knock on their door and they're going to sit down and listen," Zehringer said. "With the individual attention this plan will have, every individual farmer in this watershed is going to be contacted."
Part of the plan adds two employees from ODNR to begin working in the watershed with farmers. The two will make home visits to discuss ways farmers can help stop nutrient runoff from their farms. Newly-hired Mercer County OSU Extension educator Jim Hoorman already has started making similar home visits, talking a lot about the benefits of planting winter cover crops.
The plan also calls for quicker enforcement measures that could put repeat violators under tougher ODA rules typically reserved for permitted livestock facilities, including being inspected twice a year, Zehringer said.
Area contractor Steve Klosterman accused the Ohio EPA of failing to enforce existing pollution laws. He asked why there is a difference between how the EPA enforces pollution from a factory verses pollution from a farm.
Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski said the Ohio EPA has done a good job using tougher laws under the Clean Water Act to stop point source polluters, such as factories and wastewater treatment plants.
"My prediction is that the federal government is going to look very carefully at amending the Clean Water Act to address non-point source pollution, including manure, lawn fertilizer and construction sites," Korleski said. "My guess is that some of you wouldn't want that either."
To view the plan, called Grand Lake St. Marys and its Watershed: Water Quality Improvement Initiative, go to

Plan highlights:
The state Monday unveiled a seven-page Water Quality Improvement Initiatives document for Grand Lake during a press conference at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
Previously billed as new nutrient management strategy for Grand Lake, the document is organized into three categories:
• Outreach, engagement and voluntary implementation without significant additional resources.
• Enforcement with current resources and authority.
• Efforts with significant increases in resources.
Here are some excerpts from the document:
• It is proposed that the Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance Advisory Board, made up of the alliance's joint board of supervisors, the watershed coordinator and a handful of regular meeting attendees, serve as a principal means to facilitate the desired and necessary coordination of the water quality improvement initiatives for stakeholders and partners.
• Transfer one full-time equivalent employee (actually two part-time employees) from within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Resources to work full time in the Grand Lake Watershed to assist with the following tasks such as but no limited to: increasing technical assistance and site visits to farms (visit 50); improve complaint follow-up visits and conduct enforcement; conduct nutrient management and training at four workshops; give outreach to farmers, integrators, cooperatives, ag organization members, etc.; and be a liaison with local USDA reps to accelerate use of Farm Bill conservation funds.
• Foster efforts to export more manure from the watershed.
• Significantly reduce ma-
nure applications on frozen or snow-covered ground and within four years eliminate producer dependency on application of liquid manure on frozen or snow-covered ground in the Grand Lake Watershed.
• Identify and pursue development of alternative manure treatment and management strategies including using alum to treat fields with high phosphorous levels; facilitating development of networks between producers with excess manure and producers buying commercial fertilizer; identify manure application equipment that allows producers to apply manure on growing crops; and explore implementation of methane digester of gasification technologies and manure separating processes.
• Seek to upgrade treatment and control of domestic sewage by helping SWCDs apply for grant money to repair failing septic systems and help Mercer and Auglaize counties use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for the same purpose and coordinate with Mercer and Auglaize County health departments to identify and gauge extent of failing household sewage treatment systems.
• Though no funds currently are available, add four full-time equivalent staff to conduct site visits and confirm nutrient management plans are being followed and provide assistance for follow-up.
The plan can be viewed in its entirety by going to Go to the bottom of the news release and click on the link to Grand Lake St. Marys and Its Watershed: Water Quality Improvement Initiatives at
- Nancy Allen
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