By NANCY ALLEN
A new grassroots group trying to improve the water quality in
Grand Lake St. Marys wants to build a wetland on county-owned
land near Lakefield Airport, west of Montezuma.
Members of the non-profit Lake Improvement Association met Saturday
at the Celina Moose Lodge to discuss the benefit of building
a wetland south of the airport runway and at six other major
feeder creeks that flow into the lake.
“Mercer County owns 90 to 100 acres of land near the (Ellis)
cemetery (next to the airport), which could be a tremendous
filter area for Beaver Creek,” said Vic Woodall, one of
the chairmen of the Lake Improvement Association’s Lake
Restoration Committee (LRC). “We got a commitment from
ODNR chiefs that if we got the land, they would create the wetlands.”
Woodall said the land currently is leased to a farmer.
Woodall, LRC Chairman Bill Ringo and Grand Lake St. Marys State
Park Assistant Manager Brian Miller met with four chiefs of
the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ask for help in
cleaning up the 13,500-acre lake and the 71,862-acre watershed
area that drains into the lake.
Wetlands constructed in areas along the feeder streams would
act as a filter to help reduce the amount of sediment (soil)
and nutrients that get into the lake. Studies done on the lake
indicate that soil erosion is a major contributor to poor water
quality in the lake. Eroded soil that gets into the lake when
it rains also carries with it excess nutrients such as manure
runoff from farm fields and agricultural and lawn fertilizers.
Water quality testing done by the Ohio EPA determined that the
Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed is one of the most degraded and
polluted in the state.
Woodall and Ringo spoke with Mercer County Commissioners at
their Nov. 20 meeting about building the wetland. Ringo gave
commissioners a drawing of the area and the wetland, which commissioners
promised to turn over to Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation
District officials for review and further study, Woodall said.
“The way we described (to commissioners) is the wetland
is Mother Nature’s kidney,” Ringo said. “It
filters out the nutrients and the biggest thing is it would
slow down the water and give the soil and nutrients a chance
to drop out before the water reaches the lake ... The wetland
then uptakes (the nutrients) and certain grasses and plants
grow and it sets up proper ecological processes.”
Ringo said commissioners said they also had to check with Federal
Aviation Administration officials to make sure wetlands would
not clash with FAA rules and regulations.
In a related matter, the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Project
already is working to construct wetlands in the watershed area
using grant funds available for such projects. Watershed officials
are partnering with Franklin Township Trustees to build five
acres of wetlands in the Franklin Township Nature Park, an area
north of Ohio 219 on Kittle Road. Trustees want to develop the
land as a nature viewing area for the public.
About a third of the 34-acre area already is natural wetlands
and the watershed project has agreed to pay for 75 percent of
the cost to construct five more acres, said Ron Puthoff, a consultant
helping trustees leverage grants for the project. Trustees also
have plans to plant native grasses and trees in the area and
install a nature trail/boardwalk and a wildlife viewing area
for the public, Puthoff said.
While the primary purpose of this project is to be a nature
area, the additional wetlands also would help to reduce soil
erosion into the lake, said Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Coordinator
Heather Buck this morning.
Lake Development Corpora-tion President Jim Dabbelt said he
would help LRC officials draft a letter to send to state and
national legislators requesting a $500,000 line item in the
state budget for riprapping (large rocks) around the shoreline
and islands on the lake. The LDC is a private group made up
of mostly local business people who act as a political lobbying
group for lake improvements.
In other business, the LIA elected officers for the 2004 year.
They are President Bill Ringo, Vice President Sharon Galbreath,
trustees George Kaup, Tom Campbell and Dave Meyer, Secretary
Belinda Froning, Treasurer Lowell Dues and Sergeant at Arms
LIA members also heard Miller report that state park officials
are looking into applying for a grant to replace solar-powered
safety lights around the lake’s shoreline and other landmarks.
Miller said the lake’s water level was nine inches above
normal as of last Friday.
The next LIA meeting is April 3 at 10 a.m. at the Celina Moose