By Nancy Allen
All the solutions to water quality problems in the Grand Lake and Wabash River watersheds are already known, watershed officials just need to find a way to implement them.
That was the message from people attending an advisory board meeting of the Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Alliance held Tuesday in Celina.
Newly-appointed watershed joint board chairman Alan Imwalle called Tuesday's meeting to try to reorganize the advisory board, after participation in the board plummeted in the last few years. Imwalle gave a power point presentation on the watershed during the meeting.
"The plans are in place, you don't' need to write a plan, all the solutions are there," said advisory board member Vic Woodall, referring to the 1999 Haupman report done by a consultant in the early development of the watershed group years ago and the existing state-endorsed management plan for the Grand Lake Watershed approved last year. "What I advise the board needs to do is dissect the various plans and decide which things to attack."
Woodall also is a member of the nonprofit Lake Improve-ment Association, a group that has been working in recent years on raising awareness of poor water quality in the lake and trying to leverage state and federal funds to fix it. Fort Recovery area resident Gary Steinbrunner agreed with Woodall, adding that whoever is hired to fill the open watershed coordinator's position be able to garner support from key agricultural producers.
"It has to be an educational process of getting key agricultural landowners and farmers in the watershed on board and then they influence others," Steinbrunner said. "It all comes down to someone going out and knocking on doors to get people on board."
Steinbrunner also supports grass-covered filter strips as a way to have the biggest impact on improving water quality. Filter strips are grassy areas planted along streams that catch farm field runoff containing sediment and attached nutrients before it gets into streams and ultimately the lake or the Wabash River.
He also said there are enough funds available to make filter strip installment attractive to farmers, noting that federal funds are available as are per acre bonus payments from the local Pheasants Forever chapter and the LIA.
"The funding is there, the plans are there," he said. "I encourage you to hire a watershed coordinator who can go out and talk with farmers around their kitchen table and get them on board."
Kent Hinton, director of wastewater and solid waste for Mercer County suggested the advisory board may have to become a lobbying group in order to get funding for water quality improvements. Various groups interested in water quality improvements have unsuccessfully requested federal and state funds in recent years.
Imwalle agreed, stating the various groups need to "come together as a group of one to get any funding."
The Wabash River Water-shed was determined to be one of the most degraded in the state by the Ohio EPA some years ago. The 270,000-acre Wabash River Watershed also includes the 13,500-acre Grand Lake and the lake's 71,862-acre watershed area.
The lake's biggest problem is an excessive amount of nutrients that feed the blue-green algae. The nutrients are attached to sediment, most of which comes from farm field runoff. More than 80 percent of the land in the watershed is agricultural land. The excess algae growth is what gives the lake its characteristic green color. The algae has been getting worse in recent years, a local biologist and Celina Water Treatment plant officials have said.
Celina Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Mike Sudman, said the algae in the lake used to die off during the winter months due to the cold, but the lake has it all year round now.
Imwalle acknowledged the group has a long road ahead to fixing the water quality problems.
"We need to change people's attitude. That's the biggest deterrent," Imwalle said during the meeting. "We need to make people care."