By Nancy Allen
Members of the private Lake Development Corporation (LDC) on Monday expressed frustration over an alleged lack of oversight of small and medium livestock farms and a lack of ODNR funds for dredging Grand Lake.
Water quality data and studies of the lake's watershed show the majority of nutrients getting into the lake come from the predominant land use in the watershed -- farmland -- during rain runoff and snow melt events.
LDC members indicated that state-permitted, large farms in the watershed appear to be monitored adequately. The problem now lies with the small- to medium-sized farms that are not required to have permits and follow rules for manure management.
"Until we keep this manure from running into the lake, nothing's going to change," LDC President Jim Dabbelt said.
Sediment and attached nutrients that run off the land are the No. 1 polluters in the lake, Ohio EPA water quality tests show. Excess nutrients feed the blue-green algae in the lake causing algae blooms that give the lake its characteristic green color. When the algae dies and decays, it chokes off oxygen for fish and other aquatic life. LDC member Rick Bachelor agreed.
"It appears the stimulus to get this movement going is some legal action, to hold some people's feet to the fire to make sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing," Bachelor said. "We can talk until we are blue in the face, but it doesn't look like it's going to change."
Dabbelt said he doesn't understand why neighboring lakes have more dredges than Grand Lake, which has a bigger problem with sediment.
"I was at Indian Lake, and they had four dredges all working," he said. "How come they have the money for dredging and we don't?"
Grand Lake St. Marys State Park Manager Craig Morton reported to LDC members last June that the state park needs roughly $700,000 to $900,000 in capital funds to replace the aging 1960s-era St. Marys dredge due to continual breakdowns. The state park has another smaller dredge it uses to clear channels and other areas of the lake that continually fill with sediment. Morton said he plans to add a request for a new dredge to the state park's capital funding request list.
LDC member Matt Schwieterman suggested the state partner with private individuals to create islands in the middle of the lake. The creation of islands in the lake has actually been part of the lake's master plan by ODNR for many years. Dredging the muck from the lake's bottom to create islands would help keep the lake from filling in with sediment runoff, he reasoned.
"You'd be surprised how many people want to build an island and maybe put a house on it," Schwieterman said. "The state should say, 'OK, you build the riprap (stone) and you can have the spoil (muck)."
LDC members also suggested the state include dipping out of recently installed sediment traps in lake tributaries as part of the lake's regular dredging plan. Sediment traps are areas dug out in the bottom of streams to trap sediment runoff before it enters a body of water.
Two of the traps already have been installed in lake tributaries and the state has said it would dip them out as needed.
"I think we should monitor and keep track of the sediment traps," said LDC member Tom Knapke. "It's going to take some cost to maintain them."