By Nancy Allen
Two local organizations plan to request $4 million in capital appropriations money from the state for water quality improvements to Grand Lake.
Lake Improvement Association (LIA) member Jeff Vossler told other LIA members during their meeting Saturday that he and Lake Development Corporation (LDC) member Greg Schumm are drafting letters for the money request. The letters will be sent to state Reps Keith Faber, R-Celina, 77th district, and Derrick Seaver, R-Minster, 78th district, and Sen. Jim Jordan some time this week, Vossler said.
If received, half the money would be used for wetland and filter strip development and constructing sediment traps at the mouth of the six main tributaries to Grand Lake. The other $2 million would be used for shoreline protection and dredging specific areas of the lake with heavy sediment.
"If the money is approved, it would come back to the state park to do the work," Vossler said. "This is a combined effort of the LIA and the LDC to show people we are working together."
The LIA and LDC earlier this year already received $450,000 in capital appropriations to place rip rap (large rocks) around the shoreline of the lake and some of its islands and plant trees along the shore. Both riprap and tree planting help decrease shoreline erosion. Some parts of the lake's shoreline and its islands have eroded significantly over the years. Some LIA members have noted that Safety Island may become two separate islands in the near future if nothing is done to keep it from eroding away.
Those funds were secured with the help of Jordan and Faber.
The LIA also spearheaded an effort that lead to a local request for $2.7 million in federal funds to pay for water quality improvements that involved buying land to install filter strips on, creating wetlands and planting vegetation along the shoreline to ease erosion. Fourth District U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley, R-Findlay, is helping lobby for those federal funds.
Faber also spoke to LIA members about a pending amendment on wetlands development. The amendment, which would change Ohio's rules for wetlands mitigation, was added to the House's version of the state budget in recent weeks.
The LIA sent a letter to Faber recently opposing the amendment, saying it could result in wetlands being lost in the Grand Lake watershed, which has been classified by the Ohio EPA as one of the most degraded and polluted in the state.
Wetlands naturally remove excess sediment and attached nutrients and other pollutants that run off from farm fields, lawns, parking lots and construction sites before they enter the lake. Mitigation is the process by which new wetlands must be constructed to replace those that are destroyed by development.
The amendment proposes increasing the fees for people who want to get rid of wetlands from a maximum fee of $200 to $25,000, Faber said.
"Most of those groups said they could live with those increased fees, but they wanted a guarantee of a timely, predictable process for 401 water quality permits," Faber said.
An Ohio EPA 401 water quality permit is needed before wetlands can be developed.
The LIA said it was concerned because the amendment limits the public comment period on permits to 15 days, would allow developers to try to negate the destruction of wetlands by constructing an artificial wetland or do some other sort of mitigation effort many counties away from the original impact site, speeds up the review process for development on state scenic rivers and others.
After Faber's explanation of the process by which the amendment was developed, most LIA members on Saturday appeared satisfied with Faber's explanation of how the amendment came to be in its final form.