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The Daily



09-08-03: Group forming to improve Grand Lake water quality


A group of people concerned about the poor water quality in Grand Lake St. Marys plans to meet later this month to do something about it.
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 members involved.
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 said.
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 both watersheds.
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 dredging.
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 labor.
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.


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