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ST. MARYS — The new director of the department tasked with helping to heal Grand Lake St. Marys has first-hand experience with the issues surrounding the waterway.
Gov. John Kasich appointed current Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer to serve as the new director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Zehringer, who previously served in the Ohio House, now leads a department that will be on the front lines in developing ways to restore the water quality of Grand Lake St. Marys.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Zehringer told The Evening Leader. “It’s something I never would have dreamed I would be doing. I enjoy working for this governor and I am not going to let him or the people of Ohio down.”
Zehringer said he planned to continue to work closely with other state department directors on a variety of issues, ranging from Lake Erie water issues to the implementation of wild animal regulations in the wake of the Zanesville incident. The Fort Recovery native also stressed the importance of Grand Lake St. Marys on the department’s agenda.
“It should be a seamless transition,” Zehringer said. “This governor has made Grand Lake St. Marys and that watershed a priority and it’s also a priority that the directors all work together and that will not change. Whoever is named director of the department of agriculture will know what is going on.”
One development state officials continue to discuss is the possibility of an alum treatment in early 2012. Consultants for the state have noted an application in early spring could help reduce the chances of toxic algal blooms during the summer boating season on Grand Lake St. Marys.
“We are still studying it and listening to Tetra Tech and Battelle on that decision,” Zehringer said. “I believe we will be looking to make a decision right at the beginning of the year. We are not going to have it where it’s too late. We almost got too late to do anything last year. We had to wait to do a partial. The decision will be made a lot earlier this year.”
Zehringer replaced David Mustine, who currently oversees energy development efforts at JobsOhio. Scott Zody has served as interim director since Mustine’s departure in September. According to a news release, Tony Forshey, the state veterinarian for the past six years, was named interim director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.