06-27-03: Condition of lake is
responsibility of all
|By TIMOTHY COX
The Daily Standard
MONTEZUMA - It will take more talk and a lot more action to improve the
quality of the 70,000-acre Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, those attending a brainstorming
session on the watershed learned Thursday.
More than 50 interested people met in Franklin Township to discuss the
future of the four-year-old watershed project. Residents cited a number of concerns and
goals for the lake and surrounding drainage area and talked about ways to accomplish them.
"Everybody is responsible for the lake's condition. Every one of
us is a polluter of the lake in some way," watershed project Coordinator Heather Buck
told the crowd. But there are many mitigation programs available that can help improve
water quality, she said. The only thing that is needed for the effort to succeed, is
concerned and willing participants. "Everybody has to do something," Buck
Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Project officials said they anticipate
future meetings to discuss what was learned from Thursday's meeting and to plot the future
course of the group.
The main objection in mitigating potential problems is financial, Buck
told the residents. People simply think they cannot afford to spend money in that way.
Many times, however, they are unaware that many assistance programs are available through
state and local offices, she said.
Residents also raised a number of concerns, from soil run-off to
pollution to fishing.
One man pressed Buck about whether the water quality of the local
watershed is continuing to improve.
"Twenty years ago, you could smell it, taste it ... Today it's a
lot cleaner," Buck said. "I believe the lake is in much better condition than it
was 20 or 25 years ago pre-sewer."
But the lake and surrounding watershed still lags far below state water
quality standards, said Robert McCall, an Ohio State University Extension agent from
Findlay. Meeting those standards should be a long-term goal, he said.
Buck also noted that "good" water could also simply mean
water that is better than it was yesterday.
Another resident asked Buck if she held any authority to enforce water
pollution issues. She replied that she has "zero enforcement ability."
"The primary reason for our existence is voluntary action,"
Some residents also wanted to know the funding sources and the
background of the watershed project.
The state Soil and Water Conservation office and the Ohio Department of
Natural Resources provide portions of the watershed project's funding. The Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency also provides a grant program that allows the local group
to assist with mitigation efforts.
The state EPA money can be used for septic tank pumping and
inspections, to build livestock fences, temporary "silt fences," to encourage
strip-till and no-till farming practices and to help fund manure injection systems that
reduce run-off of fertilizer.
The main pollutant found in the watershed is sediment washed away from
farmland and other disturbed soil, Buck said. Phosphates and nitrates also are two common
pollutants. Bacteria also is a key concern within the watershed, she said.
The main pollution sources are municipal storm water run-off, unsewered
residences and agricultural operations.
A volunteer water monitoring watershed project launched two-and-a-half
years ago should begin to reap dividends for the project, Buck said. Volunteers monitor 30
sites around the lake and along its tributaries. That baseline data will help watershed
officials isolate specific problems and craft action plans to correct them, Buck said.
The lake's watershed includes the north shore and runs south of the
lake through Franklin Township, to the edge of Coldwater and also includes all of St.
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