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ST. MARYS — The newest — and largest — tool in the box to help heal Grand Lake St. Marys arrived on the scene Wednesday.
Brutus, a $670,000 12-inch suction dredge, arrived in the parking lot near the East Bank boat ramp to a crowd of onlookers. The dredge, which will replace a 1968 dredge, was built by Ellicott Dredges in Baltimore, Md., has been a year in the making.
“It’s great — this will be a replacement for a machine that’s 43-years-old,” Grand Lake St. Marys Park Manager Brian Miller told The Evening Leader. “This doesn’t happen often and it’s a monumental day for Grand Lake St. Marys.”
The dredge, which has a weight of 57 tons, was trucked into the area in several pieces. Crews, using cranes, worked to assemble the machine so that it could be placed into operation in the coming weeks.
“This is another large investment that is being made to turn Grand Lake St. Marys around for the better,” Miller said. “I think it just proves the state has a focus on correcting the water quality issues at Grand Lake St. Marys.”
The dredge also could help forge a strong partnership between local officials and a new business to the region. Earlier this week, Ag Conversions announced plans to establish a processing plant for manure that would turn the material into highly efficient, organic fertilizer. The company also has future plans to add a line that would turn dredged material into potting soil.
“It’s very exciting that we’ve got a company coming into the community that’s going to deal with the nutrient loading and help out our agriculture community so they can continue to have growth,” Miller said. “We’re very excited, from our prospective, on the dredged material to potting soil piece, which they will move forward with in the future. That will help us take dredging to the next level because right now with our dredging program, we’re currently just pumping material into DMRAs and not going anywhere with that.”
If officials cannot dispose of the material, the future of the dredge program could be in jeopardy. However, Miller said the prospect of Ag Conversions’ technology to use the material in its processing facility would be beneficial to the lake.
“Companies like them will take our dredge program and help keep it moving forward,” Miller said.
Regional Dredge Supervisor Tom Grabow said the new dredge should allow the program to be more efficient.
“I’m excited and it’s great we’ve finally got Brutus in,” Grabow said. “Ellicott designed this dredge just for us ... As far as a 12-inch intake and discharge, it’s going to be very similar with what we had in the past, but the motor is much more efficient, we shouldn’t have to worry about it as far as repairs like we did the 1968.”
The dredge should be assembled by next week. Grabow said he would like to have the dredge pumping the first or second week of April with a goal of 175,000 cubic yards of dredged material pumped this season. Last year, crews pumped 172,000 cubic yards of material.
Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Facilitator Tom Knapke said the addition of the new dredge should show residents the commitment state and local officials have to cleaning up Grand Lake St. Marys.
“It’s much more efficient and much more production will come out of the dredge,” Knapke said. “I think it shows the support the state has for the lake and it’s important to get that dredged material out of this lake because all that sediment has phosphorus in it and you have to stop that from going in and we also have to get it out of there.”
Miller also said the lakewide alum application is scheduled to start April 2. HAB Aquatics — the firm that handled last year’s application — will apply the compound to the lake. The application, which has a price tag of $5 million, is expected to take 45 days.