Monday, February 15th, 2010
By Nancy Allen
LIA donates to pilot project
  The nonprofit Lake Improvement Association (LIA) Saturday donated $5,000 toward the $500,000 cost for a pilot project to test sediment removal technology in Grand Lake.
Fundraising chairman Milt Miller told LIA members that $80,000 has been raised to date.
A group supporting the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Initiative began meeting two months ago following a presentation by Streamside Systems, Findlay, which sells the removal technology. If it works, the plan is to approach state and federal agencies in an effort to leverage grants and other money to fund it on a larger scale.
The group includes officials representing the cities of Celina and St. Marys, Auglaize and Mercer counties, Wright State University-Lake Campus, the LIA, the nonprofit Lake Development Corporation (LDC), Grand Lake St. Marys State Parks, the St. Marys Community Foundation, the Mercer County Civic Foundation, Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance and the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The group will continue soliciting funds until the goal is met. LIA member Jeff Vossler reported Saturday that the group is in the process of applying for numerous grants. The LDC has also donated $5,000.
"It sounds like a large amount but with all the groups working together it's possible," Vossler said. "When you figure the $150 million a year the lake generates in our local community, it's definitely in our interest to clean up the lake."
The pilot test would involve using two Airy Gators, which will put oxygen into the water and allow beneficial microorganisms to grow and eat nutrient-rich organic material in the sediment, and three sediment Collectors, steel devices placed on the bottom of a stream that use the energy of the water to move sediment up the collector's ramp and into a hopper. Once the hoppers fill, the sediment is pumped to a dewatering or disposal site. Ideally, the technology would be installed in early April and tested through summer.
Newly elected LIA President Tim Lovett said he believes help for the lake in the form of state and/or federal funds may be coming.
"The message we got last year was 'we're broke and it's your problem.' " Lovett said. "But now I see a movement at the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA to help fix this lake … there's been a movement in that area especially over the last two weeks."
But those same state and government officials and legislators want to see a unified effort among the community as well as their help, he said.
"They're asking us as a community to come together and we have to do that to help clean up the lake," Lovett said. "We're not going to lay this all at their doorstep."
The Grand Lake Watershed has been deemed one of the most degraded based on water quality testing done by the Ohio EPA. Most of the degradation comes from excess nutrients, mostly phosphorous and nutrients, that run off mostly from farmland, the biggest land use in the watershed.
Also Saturday, members learned that the LIA's Web site redesign is almost complete and should be operational in a few weeks. Information has been added to the Web site, said LIA Vice President Mark Piening. Users will be able to access maps of the lake and several lake water quality studies and reports, and there will be a contact your legislator section, an issues and solutions section and several other new components.
LIA members also learned:
• The lake's water level is three inches below normal pool, up from a foot below normal pool recorded last fall.
• This year's special kids fishing derby for physically and developmentally handicapped kids and adults will be Sept. 15 at the East Bank shelter house No. 1 instead of in May in an attempt to have better weather for the event.
• The LIA's premier fundraiser, the Barstool Open, will be Aug. 14. It is a putt-putt golf event with four-person teams traveling by watercraft or automobile to play a hole at 13 different establishments around the lake. There are first, second and third place money prizes for the winning golf teams and for the best decorated boats.
• The next LIA meeting is 10 a.m. March 6 at the Celina Moose Lodge.
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