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Monday, March 5th, 2012
By Nancy Allen
State lets out some water
Grand Lake spillway tube will remain open to creek all week
  GRAND LAKE - State officials this morning cranked open one tube at the base of the West Bank Spillway to release water from Grand Lake into Beaver Creek. The tube will remain open all week as the state begins its first pilot test on managing the lake's level.
The lake, which is now a foot above normal pool, has been the center of lawsuits over flooded land along Beaver Creek and Wabash River.
"We want to know the effect opening one tube has on the level of Beaver Creek, and how long it takes the creek to rise and what effect it has on draining down the lake and monitor that for one week," Lake Restoration Commission Manager Milt Miller told those at Saturday's Lake Improvement Association (LIA) meeting.
Engineers will use the data to plan more tests, which then will be used to "come up with an adaptive plan to as best we can start managing the lake like we did in the old days," he said.
The city will place water level monitors on Beaver Creek at the U.S. 127 bridge and Fleetfoot Road to record changes. Four more monitors will be installed on the creek by the county engineer's office beyond Fleetfoot Road.
Before the new spillway opened in 1997, the state had drawn down the lake's level in fall and spring to lessen flooding downstream. The state discontinued the draw-down policy because the new, much larger spillway was meant to be self regulating, Miller said.
The spillway has two tubes where water can be released. Miller believes the tubes were installed for emergency purposes; they have never been used as a lake level management tool.
The tubes are opened for a short time twice a year for testing. One also has been used to wash fish into Beaver Creek when the fish became trapped in the spillway basin due to water not flowing over the spillway.
The state an-nounced in January it would form a committee to develop a lake level protocol after three lawsuits were won by property owners who blamed the spillway and the state's mismanagement of the lake level for increased flooding on their land.
Miller, who is on the committee, said other members are Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer, Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin, Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart, Liberty Township Trustee Ron Linn, East Jefferson Township Trustee Keith Houts, LIA President Tim Lovett, Rustic Haven Campground owner Greg Gast, Celina Safety Service Director Tim Hitchcock and Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Brian Miller. Milt Miller and Laffin are co-chairmen. The committee met for the first time last month at the local CVB office.
Milt Miller said an ODNR engineer from Columbus was to oversee the opening of the spillway tube this morning.
Officials will be keeping an eye on the metal sluice gate that slides up and down to open the tube. They want to see how the gate responds when it is fully open and when it is partially open; lake water rushing past a partially open tube could cause excess vibration and damage to the gate, he said.
Milt Miller said data from the pilot test could be used to "be proactive" and prepare for forecasted rainfall events.
Also at Saturday's meeting, LIA members learned,
• The Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance's annual lawn and garden soil sampling program has begun. Coupons are available at a cost of $5 at the Mercer SWCD office for people in the watershed who want their soil tested to determine appropriate fertilizer amounts. Two hundred coupons are available. The testing normally would cost $20. Alliance coordinator Laura Walker said most lawns do not need phosphorous. Call the SWCD office at 419-586-3289 for more information.
• The LIA's membership committee has set a goal of 2,012 members this year. The organization as about 1,000 members. The drive kicks off next month.
• The nonprofit LIA's recent beach party fundraiser raised almost $16,000.
• LIA's annual Bar Stool Open putt-putt golf tournament around the lake will be Aug. 11; LIA's annual fishing derby for physically and developmentally disabled children and adults will be Sept. 12; and LIA's annual golf tournament will be Sept. 15.
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