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The Daily



06-27-03: Condition of lake is responsibility of all

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 said.
    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," Buck said.
    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. Henry.


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