The following was penned by LIA President Tim Lovett in response to this letter to the editor.
Fact is an economic and environmental disaster is occurring in the region around Grand Lake St. Marys. Jobs, businesses, home values and tourist income continue to suffer dramatic reductions due to the lake’s poor water quality. Strains of blue green algae growing in the Lake are producing toxins that are hazardous to human health, resulting in public health advisories to avoid ingesting or contacting the Lake’s water. Blue green algae are thriving because of the excessive phosphorus (P) in the sediment of the Lake and the runoff into the Lake, primarily from agricultural sources. These facts have been well documented by OEPA, ODNR, the local press, television, and radio.
It is also a fact that the Lake can be restored making it once again the driver of a thriving recreational and tourism industry in the region. The recently completed study of the Lake’s problems concludes that a two pronged approach is required to restore the lake’s health. Stop the excessive P coming into the Lake and remove most of the P being released by the sediment.
Fact is there are proven Best Management Practices (BMP) available to the agricultural producers which can reduce P in runoff going into the lake. If the BMPs were adopted by the entire agricultural community in the Lake’s watershed, P would be reduced to a level that would sustain a healthy Lake environment. Many of the producers in the watershed are to be commended for having already adopted these practices, but the BMPs must be adopted on a much larger scale to save the Lake. Efforts by various governmental and private entities are continuing to encourage producers in the watershed to adopt these practices along with financial incentives to producers who do.
Controlling the release of P from Lake sediment is a technically feasible fact. A variety of technologies exist, and one or more may be required. It will cost millions of dollars and identifying the necessary funding sources will be difficult, especially in these tough economic times. But weighed against the over 2,000 jobs tied to the Lakes’ recreational and tourist industry, controlling the P already in the Lake is a wise investment. The state and federal government are spending millions to save existing jobs in Ohio and some of those funds need to be diverted towards saving the Lake and the jobs it provides.
The problem with excessive nutrients on agricultural runoff causing algae problems is not just a Grand Lake St. Marys issue. It is a state and federal issue. It is a problem in the Mississippi River basin and in the Great Lakes. The Lake has a relatively small runoff zone. If it cannot be corrected here, there is not much hope for everywhere else.
I remain cautiously optimistic that the Lake can and will be cleaned up and the region’s economy will be restored. I, the Lake Improvement Association, and many other organizations are committed to making this happen.