State officials briefed on Grand Lake St. Marys situation
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
Ohio Director of Agriculture James Zehringer had the shortest trip, since he lives just down the road in Fort Recovery. He was joined by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally and Department of Natural Resources Director David Mustine for a briefing held at Wright State University’s Lake Campus detailing what the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee seeks to do to deal with the problem.CELINA – Just four days after being sworn in by Governor John Kasich, the directors of three state agencies were in Celina to underscore the governor’s commitment to deal with the algae bloom problem on Grand Lake St. Marys.
The three directors, along with Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing, a representative of the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee, and State Representative Keith Faber, later held a meeting with media representatives to provide comments on the briefing and what could be the next steps in the process.
The three state officials, who were sworn in January 10 by Governor Kasich, indicated their commitment to taking action on the issue, while Faber said he was pleased with the quick action by Governor Kasich to honor a commitment he made during the gubernatorial campaign to solve the lake’s problems.
“When John was campaigning, he came here and saw first-hand the impact on Grand Lake St. Marys and the community,” Faber said, “and he made a commitment … that this would be a priority for the new Kasich administration.
“And I don’t know how you get much more priority, as a state legislator, than to see the three directors – and really the four agencies that are directly impacted on this – coming in literally the first week they’re in office to talk to the interested parties about what needs to be done to fix Grand Lake St. Marys,” Faber added.
All three state directors were provided with a strategic plan outlining steps needed to deal with the algae bloom problem.
Those priorities include the following:
- Sequestration of soluble reactive phosphorus to limit availability of nutrients that fuel algae and mycrotoxin development (the highest priority item).
- Physical removal and encapsulation of nutrient-laden sediment, through dredging, as the most effective long-term means of eliminating internal nutrient loading and the controlling factor for nutrient cycling within the lake.
- Develop opportunities to remove stressors on the ecological system through application of technologies that provide sustainable processes.
- Establish Best Management Practices in each sub-watershed draining to the lake to intercept and remove nutrient loading prior to its entry into the system.
- Decrease rough fish population through removal and management actions.
- Management of the lake as an economic resource of the state, with recognition of the influence it maintains over the local and regional economy.
- Fund the development and restoration of natural resources within the state, where the economic benefit will exceed the costs of capital investment to undertake.
- Prioritize applications from producers within the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed for the Water Pollution Control Loan fund, with the added caveat that use of manure best management practices and technologies be integrated into all aspects of the agricultural/livestock industries located within the watershed to decrease nutrients draining into the lake.
All three directors were complimentary of the work done so far by the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Committee, with Mustine saying he felt the strategic plan was “very professional.”
Although he comes from Indiana, Nally, the new Ohio EPA director, said he is familiar with the local problem since he lived near a water recreation area in the Indianapolis area called Geist Reservoir, adding that that area, which includes homes in the median range of $1 million-$10 million, has the same problem as Grand Lake St. Marys.Mustine said he was also impressed with the local fundraising efforts, which have generated $650,000 so far. “That’s fantastic and certainly inspires us to be looking as hard as we can to find ways to get resources for this effort.”
Nally also responded to a question asking what the state planned to do this summer to deal with the problem.
“There’s going to be action done this spring,” Nally said. “Whether it prevents a algae bloom this summer we don’t know, but at least we’re not going to say we didn’t try these top four, five, six top issues, we’re going to be doing things and not waiting for something to happen.”
“If you’re asking if we’re going to have action, yes, we’ll guarantee we’re going to have action,” Zehringer added. “We can’t guarantee success.”