By NANCY ALLEN
A group of people concerned about the poor water quality in
Grand Lake St. Marys plans to meet later this month to do something
Members of the nonprofit Lake Improvement Association (LIA)
met Saturday at the Celina Moose Lodge and learned of the push
to start the new group. A meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 24 at the Moose Lodge for anyone interested.
LIA members Jerry Raiff and Vic Woodall are heading up the yet
unnamed group. Both made impassioned pleas for help from LIA
members in getting the group started and getting other non-LIA
LIA members in recent months have become more interested in
the water quality of the 13,500-acre Grand Lake St. Marys and
the 71,862-acre watershed area that drains into the lake. The
watershed is one of the most polluted in the state, EPA water
quality testing has shown. Woodall and LIA President Bill Ringo
have been attending a lot of meetings and activities associated
with cleaning up the lake and watershed during the last several
months. The LIA traditionally has been involved with raising
funds for things like shelter house and picnic table construction
around the lake.
“If you want to have the lake here for your kids and grandkids,
you gotta do something,” Raiff said. “If it gets
out that this is the most contaminated body of water in the
state, you got a lot to lose and your kids have a lot to lose.”
Raiff said he did not have any specific answers, but said he
hoped that a group of people working together toward a common
goal could come up with something. Trying to get the group thinking
about all types of possibilities, Raiff mentioned that he had
heard that barley straw can be used to decrease algae growth.
“I heard that Homan Nursery uses barley straw in their
ponds ... What if we put barley straw in all the feeder channels
to the lake. Could it work? I don’t know,” Raiff
Water quality testing performed by the Ohio EPA in 1999 showed
that the Wabash River Watershed in Mercer and Darke counties
and the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed in Mercer and Auglaize
counties had the most degraded water quality of any in the state
of Ohio. Most sections were ranked poor while the rest were
ranked fair. There were no areas ranked good
In Grand Lake St. Marys, blue green algae flourishes and chokes
off oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals. The algae blooms
in the water when there are high amounts of nutrients that come
from lawn and agricultural fertilizers, manure run-off from
farm fields, human waste that leaks from failing private septic
systems and laundry and dish soap.
A summary of the EPA’s report states these nutrients are
coming from the unsewered communities of Wabash, Chickasaw and
Philothea and from animal manure run-off. Since the report was
issued, Mercer County officials have built a public sewer system
in Philothea and Chickasaw village councilors now are planning
for a public sewer system in their community.
The biggest habitat factors negatively affecting the water quality
in the watersheds are the loss of trees and brush-covered areas
along stream banks that filter out sediment and keep water cooled
from the sun to support aquatic life, streams that have been
dug out and straightened to improve flow and drainage from farm
fields and extensive tiling of farm fields, the EPA report says.
Ringo encouraged Raiff to contact local watershed officials
and get them involved. Two watershed groups — the Grand
Lake St. Marys Watershed Project and the Wabash Watershed Alliance
— currently are working at improving water quality in
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton pledged
his support to the new group.
Morton said he is not yet sure whether state park officials
will remove logs from the lake this year due to the lake’s
high water level. State park officials revived the popular program
in recent years and have been doing it annually as a safety
measure for boaters. Morton said the state park plans to continue
the program, but may just skip it this year to concentrate on
Morton also reported that construction of a 7,000-foot non-motorized
trail that will run along East Bank Road and through the state
park should start this week or next. State park officials had
hoped to get the project done by Memorial Day this year, but
the project was continually delayed by rain. A $144,000 ODNR
Recreational Trails grant is paying for 80 percent of the project,
and the state park is paying the remaining 20 percent through
State park officials have completed a dredging project at Club
Island and plan to move on to similar projects at Kozy Kampground
and Prairie Creek soon.
State park officials plan to do a lot of tree planting during
the next couple of years to replace at least 100 trees that
have been lost over the last 11/2 years at the state park due
to stress, disease and storm damage.
LIA members on Saturday also:
• Heard Ringo report that the LIA’s annual fund-raiser,
the Barstool Open putt putt golf tournament held Aug. 9, was
a huge success, growing by 10 percent this year. Winners were
the Hole Hunters, first, $200; Seven-Thirty, second, $150, and
Tiger Putters, third, $100.