By Nancy Allen
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sam Speck is expected to respond to a request from local lake groups for funds to clean up Grand Lake in the next week or so.
During the Lake Development Corporation's (LDC) annual legislative day on the lake June 1, the private LDC and another group, the nonprofit Lake Improvement Association (LIA), requested $3 million annually for 10 years to improve the lake's water quality. Attending the event were various Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials, including Speck.
"I've been told there should be a written response coming soon from ODNR on the LDC's legislative day on the lake," Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton told LIA members during their regular meeting Saturday.
The LIA's Lake Restoration Committee, in existance now for about three years, is concerned specifically with improving the water quality in Grand Lake and in the watershed area that flows into it.
The lake and its watershed has been designated one of the most degraded in the state, based on 1997 Ohio EPA water quality testing. The LIA has been ratcheting up the pressure in recent months, coming up with a plan to restore the lake that includes the possibility of suing governmental agencies for allowing the lake to become degraded, the document says.
LIA officials have downplayed the lawsuit possibility, calling it a "last resort." The plan includes four main parts -- to create a new 501(c)3 nonprofit status for the LIA, which would make any monetary or land donations tax deductible, pursue a major grant to buy land around the lake, form a separate corporation within the group to establish a land bank on which to either build wetlands or for developers to install mitigated wetlands, and possibly pursue legal action against state agencies for lack of action to restore the lake.
In the document, there is a section for each of the government entities -- the ODNR, Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Agriculture -- that quotes various agency rules and regulations that have not been lived up to, the group feels.
In a related matter, petitions placed at several businesses around the lake to leverage money to restore Grand Lake have gathered hundreds of signatures, reported LIA member Bob Sachs. The LIA intends to send letters and copies of the petition signatures to Democratic candidate for governor, Ted Strickland and Republican candidate for governor, Ken Blackwell, and to a list of 14 state and federal legislators.
The next LIA meeting is 10 a.m. on Aug. 5 at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge in Celina and the next LRC meeting is July 17 at 7:30 p.m., also at the Moose.