By Nancy Allen
Local officials working to restore Grand Lake plan to request $2.7 million in federal funds to pay for water quality improvements.
Some of the money would be used to buy land for filter strips, which help prevent excess sediment from getting in the lake. Funds also would pay for creating wetlands and planting vegetation along the shore to ease erosion.
The money likely would be requested by Mercer and Auglaize counties and the city of Celina, Bob Grimm told members of the Lake Development Corporation (LDC) at their meeting Monday. Grimm is a member of both the private LDC and the nonprofit Lake Improvement Association (LIA).
The local effort to get the federal funds became public Saturday, when LIA member Jeff Vossler told that group 4th District U.S. Rep Mike Oxley, R-Findlay, had given local lake supporters the go-ahead to request federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency.
"We had an action meeting about the federal funding today and we need to get three separate requests in for the money by Thursday," Grimm said Monday. "The threshold per agency we have been told is $900,000. Our meeting today was to determine how best to steer those funds." Celina Economic Development Consultant Kent Bryan, who attended Monday's LDC meeting, said the city also is actively involved in the process.
Shoreline protection could involve placing riprap (rocks) and planting vegetation along the lake's shoreline to anchor it and help ease erosion. Filter strips made of planted grass and/or trees can be installed along creeks and streams leading to the lake to help filter out excess sediment and attached nutrients before they get into the lake. Manmade wetlands built along creeks and streams also act to filter out excess sediment and nutrients, which are the main contributors to poor water quality in the lake.
Grimm said key to Oxley's lobbying at the federal level was the fact that poor water quality was listed as a community weakness in a recently released study. The lake, which is Celina's sole source of drinking water, has been a thorn in the side of city officials who have been dealing with Ohio EPA noncompliance designations in connection with poor water quality for a decade.
Poor water quality was named the top weakness in a state study released last week, which showed it was not economically feasible to build a lodge resort on the lake. Although, water quality was not the determining factor.
One of the study's major findings indicated there has to be more state or privately-owned land around the lake upon which to site a lodge, and there has to be more anchor attractions to make visitors want to extend their stays.
Grimm indicated that improved lake water quality might improve the area's attractiveness to developers to bring in those attractions.
"Hopefully it's like a domino effect," Grimm said. "When water quality is improved, hopefully everything improves in the area."