This is a critical time for Grand Lake St. Marys. The lake is still in crisis. You might not have read much about it in recent months, but make no mistake, the polluted waters are still polluted.
Perhaps it is not as bad as it was two years ago when Grand Lake drew national attention for its toxic blue-green algae and the Ohio EPA’s multiple advisories against contact with water from the lake.
In 2012 toxic algae was found, but not nearly to the extent it was the year before. Is that progress? Did the state’s multi-million-dollar alum treatments work? Or was nutrient runoff into the lake controlled by the drought?
That answer might come this summer if the weather returns to “normal” conditions. In other words: more rain and hot, steamy days.
A group of area residents has been working to solve the problem, raising money through projects, donations and grants. They have put some control measures in the feeder streams that bring water into the lake.
To this point, the state has been involved by supplying funds, spreading alum, testing the water, beefing up dredging and adding riprap.
One has to wonder how long and how much the state will be contributing in the future. The blue-green algae focus has moved to a larger stage. It’s now playing Lake Erie. That larger audience is bound to take away some of the efforts concentrated on Grand Lake St. Marys the last couple of years. Even one of Grand Lake’s key legislators – Keith Faber of Celina – has moved to a position with larger state responsibilities, president of the Ohio Senate.
A few days ago, Faber told the Celina Daily Standard: "It's going to be real tough to ask people in Cleveland who are fighting Lake Erie issues as well to continue to sink millions and millions of dollars in Grand Lake St. Marys. And so one of the issues ... is going to be 'what are we spending the money on and are we doing something that has value?' "
It sounds to me as if Faber is throwing the challenge back to the residents of the Grand Lake watershed. Sort of: “Fix it yourself, because the days of state participation are dwindling.”
Governor John Kasich said recently, “We are making progress,” but did not elaborate about the problems as Grand Lake St. Marys. He, too, realizes the problems at Lake Erie have taken center stage.
The only real “progress” will come when the last farmer stops pouring manure on his land without safeguards against runoff into the lake. Achieving that goal might mean such steps as mandatory filter strips in the watershed, hauling away manure, created wetlands in every feeder stream and any other innovation that comes along.
At the same time, every aspect of lake cleanup must be in full force, including dredging, adding riprap to control erosion, continued removal of rough fish and even restrictions on lawn fertilizing in the watershed.
GLSM Park rates cut
In an effort to attract more people to the Grand Lake area, Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is again offering discounts. Camping, docks and day use fees will all be cut 50 percent, while getaway rentals will be discounted 25 percent. These special rates will run April 1-Oct. 31.
Discounts may not be used during the following dates: May 24-26, June 30-July 6, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, Sept. 20-22 and Oct. 4-6.
For information and reservations, contact the Grand Lake St. Marys State Park at (419) 394-3611.