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Friday, June 1st, 2012

Prairie Creek nature wonderland in the making

By Shelley Grieshop
MONTEZUMA - A site under construction along Prairie Creek is starting to resemble a nature-lover's paradise.
The 20-acre plot next to Aqua View Estates in Montezuma is a testing ground, of sorts, where phosphorus is being removed from the creek before it enters Grand Lake. Soon grasses and other plants - designed to absorb phosphorus that feeds the lake's harmful blue-green algae - will be planted throughout the landscape as part of the Prairie Creek Treatment Train.
Project manager Jared Ebbing recently walked a dirt trail through the area and was excited about the progress.
"It's really something to see. The bald eagles are flying back there and soon the cleaner water will attract more of them, more fish and other wildlife," he said.
The area is owned by Franklin Township and is accessible to the public.
"We want to make sure the public not only sees this but embraces the concept," Ebbing explained.
A rugged path now exists for walking but caution must be used during the construction phase. A permanent walking path will be established, he said. A public "walk-through" is planned, but no date has been set. The entire treatment train should be completed by this fall, Ebbing noted.
A $534,270 Clean Ohio Conservation Fund grant being pursued by county officials would expand the project by 40 acres and pay for the creation of littoral wetlands that formerly enhanced the shoreline prior to 1973.
Approximately $880,000 is needed to purchase the extra acreage from Rick Uppenkamp. Additional funding sources include $80,000 donated back from Uppenkamp, an in-kind contribution of $4,500 from Mercer County Pheasants Forever, $250,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and $21,680 from the local Lake Restoration Commission.
On Thursday, Mercer County Commissioners approved Ebbing's application for a $241,500 Ohio EPA 319 grant to fund Phase 2 of the project. The second part includes more wetlands restoration on the additional 40 acres and is estimated to cost $411,500. The remaining expenses will be covered by in-kind work, he said.
Also on Thursday, commissioners awarded a $250,209 contract to VTF Excavation of Celina for a pumping system at Prairie Creek. VTF, the sole bidder, was tapped to supply the raw water line and alum dosing system. The equipment will divert some of the water from the creek through the wetlands area where filtering mechanisms such as plants will remove some of the phosphorous.
The pumping system also will add alum to the creek water before it flows into the wetlands. Alum bonds with phosphorous and makes it unavailable to the algae.
Officials formerly used three stream-side sediment collector units at the site but weren't satisfied with results. They've decided instead to build more earthen dams, Ebbing said.
"They (collectors) just weren't as effective as we'd hoped," he explained.
The collector units, which were purchased with grant funds and donations, will be sold and the money wil be spent on additional Airy Gators that have proved successful for infusing oxygen into the lake's sediment.
Additional online story on this date
Area librarians are asking for patrons' patience as they transition to an updated computer system this month.
Mercer County District Public Library in Celina and its branches in Mendon, Chickasaw and St. Henry will be closed Thursday, when the system goes live, Celina librarian Liz Muether said. [More]
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