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Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Officials set to form watershed group

St. Marys River

By Nancy Allen
The process to form a St. Marys River Watershed group should begin in the next few months.
Andy Kleinschmidt, OSU Extension educator for Van Wert County, said the decision to officially form the new group was based on positive feedback from meetings held in Rockford and Willshire for landowners affected by the river.
"We're going to take the list of interested persons from the Rockford meeting and the list from the Willshire meeting and look to pull a group together," Kleinschmidt said.
A meeting to begin the formal process is planned for January, but no specific date has yet been set.
A meeting held in Rockford on Monday night was attended by 27 people. Kleinschmidt said several issues were discussed with the most attention focusing on sedimentation in the river. Other topics were water quality, removing log jams, increasing opportunities for recreational activities like canoeing and fishing and pollution from private septic systems.
Kleinschmidt said several people mentioned log jams.
"They were talking about accountability issues in terms of removing trees when they fall," Kleinschmidt said, adding that Mercer and Van Wert County engineers perform log jam removal through a river maintenance schedule.
Kleinschmidt said the watershed group, if formed, would not be responsible for log jam removal, but would enhance such activities.
Many of the issues overlap, he said. For example improved water quality would improve fishing opportunities and less log jams would increase canoeing opportunities.
"One thing that was really apparent was we really have nothing in between from the headwaters to the Ohio-Indiana state line," Kleinschmidt said. "There is no group and no coordinator."
The headwater (beginning) of the St. Marys River is Grand Lake. The lake's East Bank spillway discharges into the Miami and Erie Canal, which empties into the St. Marys River and from there into the Maumee River and Lake Erie. The St. Marys River flows from Ohio into Indiana.
Some of those who attended the Rockford meeting included Mayor Amy Joseph, Mercer County Commissioner John Bruns, Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance Coordinator Laura Walker, St. Marys River Watershed Project Coordinator Clint Nester, who leads a watershed program for Allen, Adams and Wells counties in Indiana, and Shanes Crossing Historical Society President Norm Vantilburg.
A similar meeting held last month in Willshire for Van Wert County landowners also was well attended. The three main areas of concern brought forth at that meeting were flooding, water quality and improving communication between Ohio and Indiana officials.
A watershed is the area of land that catches rain and snow and drains into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. In the case of this specific bi-county group, the St. Marys River Watershed includes all of the land in Mercer and Van Wert counties that drains into the river.
Organizing the local meetings to form the new group have been Kleinschmidt, Ken Kottenbrock, a technician with the Van Wert County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Robert McCall, a watershed specialist with OSU Extension.
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