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Thursday, October 21st, 2010

New dredge will go to work in spring

By Nancy Allen
GRAND LAKE - Grand Lake St. Marys State Park will receive a new dredge this spring to speed sediment removal activities on the 13,500-acre lake.
Assistant park manager Brian Miller said the state park has two dredges. The oldest is a 1968 model that has been repaired numerous times, he told a crowd at a meeting about lake cleanup efforts Wednesday night at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
"A month ago, Governor Strickland stood up here at this same podium I am standing at and talked about the state's plan to do targeted dredging," Miller said. "Since then, ODNR has confirmed we're going to put a third dredge in the lake next season to help with that."
The dredge will come from the statewide dredging program which supplies machines and operators for state park projects around Ohio.
The greatest challenge with dredging continues to be having a place to put the sediment, Miller said. The state park pays landowners a rental fee to build dredge material relocation areas (DMRAs) into which they pump lake sediment.
Locations scheduled to be dredged this spring include the mouth of Beaver Creek in Montezuma, Riley Bay on the lake's north side and Coldwater Creek from the mouth to the U.S. 127 bridge, Miller said.
State park officials originally thought they couldn't do the Coldwater Creek job for a few years, but the new dredge now makes it possible.
Miller said dredge crews plan this fall and winter to renovate an old DMRA at Park Grand Resort built decades ago and build a new DMRA in a wooded area north of the Celina Rotary Dog Park.
"There's private land near Riley Bay we are currently pumping onto and some county-owned land commissioners agreed to let us use," Miller said. "But we're going to have to continue to look for new DMRAs."
The state has long been criticized for not dredging the lake more. The state's dredging program only funds targeted projects that improve boat safety.
"The extra dredge will help a lot," Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton said. "The big rush on our part will be to get the DMRA's built this fall and winter and ready in time."
Morton said the state park had looked at the wooded area north of the dog park for years as a possible DMRA location, but didn't want to take down the trees.
"It's just becoming harder and harder to come up with DMRA's, so we decided to do it," he said. "We will leave a ring of trees around it to try to reduce the visual impact and still look as good for park visitors."
Phosphorous-laden sediment that has been collecting in the lake for years keeps feeding the lake's toxic blue-green algae. This is known as internal loading. External loading, phosphorous that continues to run off land in the 98,000-acre watershed, also feeds the algae.
Miller said the park's dredge crews stopped working for five weeks during a no contact water quality advisory issued by the state due to high levels of algae toxins. Dredging started back up about seven weeks ago and crews have since been putting in 40- and 50-hour weeks.
Other ideas to get more dredging have come from local politicians.
State Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and State Rep. Jim Zehringer, R-Fort Recovery, met recently with members of the Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association about its employees doing lake dredging.
"They approached us in Columbus about three months ago," Zehringer said Wednesday. "These are people used to moving large amounts of dirt and pumping it every day in their business."
Zehringer said the association is coming up with a plan to do lake dredging. He did not know when that plan would be ready or where the funds would come from.
Zehringer said the plan, not yet complete, would include a cost estimate, proposed start and finish date and schedule of tasks each year.
"There are plenty of ideas, from stimulus dollars to looking at creating a revenue stream within the watershed to looking at other state departments that may be over-funded," Zehringer said of locating funds for dredging. "We are trying to come up with an exact cost."
The Lake Restoration Commission (LRC) continues to explore all options for larger scale dredging and creating islands in the lake using dredge material, Miller said. Formed in late January, the LRC is a volunteer coalition of individuals from Mercer and Auglaize counties working to fix the toxic blue-green algae problem that nearly shut down lake this summer.
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