Group Touts 2012 Goals

CELINA — Local officials charged with helping lead the effort to heal Grand Lake St. Marys released their goals for 2012.

“Our main goal for 2012 is very simple — an advisory-free lake,” Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Facilitator Tom Knapke told a crowd gathered for the commission’s progress summit on Wednesday. “That means you put your toes in the water — that’s very important. We’ve made great progress last year, but that’s our goal for this year.”

Another major goal is for an alum application in 2012. Officials dosed the center portion of the lake with alum and Knapke said they pledged another application this year.

“We’re hoping to have a full alum treatment and hoping to have the package put together by the end of February and our target date for the alum treatment is April 1. Last year it was June 2 or 3. We want to get that expedited this year.”

Knapke also called for stepped up monitoring of tributaries flowing into the lake.

“We’ve got to continue to monitor this lake and the things coming into this lake so we know what our benchmarks are for now and in the future as we move forward with this long-term project,” Knapke said. “We have to continue to develop wetlands in this area of the lake.”

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Glen Cobb revealed state officials plan to study the issue of what to do with the spillway. Cobb said the issue will involve a handful of stakeholders in the area.

“The director has been on the job for eight weeks and this is one of his priorities,” Cobb said of ODNR Director Jim Zehringer. “So we are going to look at this and one of the commitments he has made is that we are going to get a balanced view from both above and below the spillway as far as operating the gates. We’ll take stakeholder input. We are looking to form a small team at a pace that will take to get it right — that’s the bottom line. We certainly don’t want to make it worse. We want to do what we can to balance the water in the lake and we understand this is not a silver bullet. The surrounding area is very flat and if we get a lot of water, it’s got to go somewhere.”

Milt Miller unveiled local fundraising efforts in the past two years have netted more than $900,000.

“It demonstrates a commitment to our wonderful asset of Grand Lake St. Marys,” Miller said. “To date, over a two-year effort with a scaled back effort this year, we raised in cash money to benefit our lake, nearly $925,000. I think that speaks buckets for how our region views this lake.”

Following the summit, Knapke called the event a positive sign for the community.

“I think the communication from the state to the local people was important for them to hear,” Knapke told The Evening Leader. “We’ve been passing it along, but I think it’s always good to have someone from the state level come in and share what’s going on. It gives them a better comfort level.”

Knapke also praised the contingents from Auglaize and Mercer counties who attended the forum.

“If you look at the partners we have in there between the two counties, it’s matched,” Knapke said.

“The support has been coming from both counties and that’s important for us. We haven’t had that in the past — it’s been that group and that group and now we have one entity representing the lake with the state directors.”

In order to realistically have an advisory-free year, Knapke acknowledged a slew of circumstances must fall into place.

“For that to be a reality, we have to get that alum treatment in the first part of April, have good weather conditions, no flooding — those are all the ingredients I think we need,” Knapke said. “The temperature of the water and wind also fall into that, but I think the alum is important to get in to initiate the lock up of the phosphorus before it starts the blooming and it gets out of hand too quickly.”

The hiring of a lake restoration manager also is on the front burner for the group. The commission received 24 resumes and conducted three interviews. Knapke said he hoped to have a person in place in the next week.