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ST. MARYS — State officials on Monday announced plans to go ahead with a lakewide alum application in the coming weeks.
"The timeline is going to be early April," Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer told The Evening Leader. "I know we are going to be quite a bit ahead of last year's schedule. We are going to have a full lake treatment and we are excited about getting started."
Last year, state officials initially planned to conduct a lakewide alum treatment. However after several pilot projects, state officials decided to concentrate on the middle 4,900 acres of the lake. A delay, caused by the pilot projects, pushed the application back to June. Zehringer said applying alum earlier in the year will allow the chemical to take hold before the hot summer months set in.
"More importantly, it's vital to get it in before the start of spawning season for the fish," Zehringer said. "It's important to get ahead of that and it's important to have cooler temperatures."
Last year's application yielded positive results. The target goal was to get phosphorus reduction of 50 percent. The treatment reached a reduction of 56 percent within the middle portion of the lake and the entire lake saw a reduction of 20 to 30 percent.
"We want to make sure we have a safe lake," Zehringer said. "Obviously the goal of the alum is to hold down phosphorus and algae blooms. We have a goal of no signs going up and we want people to eat the fish, water ski and jet ski all season long. We know that with the continuing improvements in the watershed and the lake, adding all those things together, we are heading in the right direction."
According to a news release, funding for the alum treatment totals $5 million and includes funding from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund, administered through the Ohio EPA, and the Distressed Watershed Loan Program, administered through the Ohio Water Development Authority. Additional funding will be provided by ODNR’s Division of Parks and Recreation for investigations at other inland lakes in Ohio that experienced harmful algal blooms (HAB) over the last few years.
Zehringer also touted the work of several local lake groups for taking an active role in helping in the fight to heal Grand Lake St. Marys.
"We always like working with the local Lake Improvement Association and the LRC, Milt Miller and Tom Knapke," Zehringer said, noting the group has been key in assisting in the decision to open the tubes at the westside of the lake. "We wanted to make sure when we opened the tubes on the west bank, that it was done with science and not just emotions. We wanted to make sure it was done correctly and we didn't want too much water running out of the lake where we would run into a situation where it got too low. We also didn't want too much water going into Beaver Creek where we would have flooding. It's a hard act to balance."