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The Daily



12-08-03: Local group wants new wetland


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 Bob Hoersting.
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 Lodge.


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