Commentary by Outdoor Columnist Jim Morris, posted on

As much as I have pushed and cajoled, pleaded and implored about the massive water quality problems at Grand Lake St. Marys for the past 20-plus years, I can’t sit here and watch the latest plan unfold that would ”fix” Ohio’s largest inland lake.

The plan, which has been attributed to Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, would put an additional $4 million into the effort to save the lake. That certainly would be welcomed if the $4 million wasn’t coming out of a project that is just as important to another lake and region – Caesar Creek Lake in Warren and Greene counties.

For as long as I have complained about the pea soup  green water at Grand Lake, I have been questioning state officials about why a lake the size of Caesar Creek has no place to buy gas on the water. If you have a boat problem there, the only solution is to leave the lake.

One can debate all day about which lake needs the $4 million more, but that is not really the point. Grand Lake has a huge problem, but just because the Ohio Senate sees $4 million sitting in another fund, already promised to Caesar Creek to build a marina, doesn’t mean it has the right (morally, at least) to divert those funds to an unrelated project.

The money is in the Waterways Safety Fund, which is a boating fund, created and financed by boaters. Boat enthusiasts – including the Ohio Waterways Safety Council – feel it is illegal to take the money out of a boating fund to be used for a watershed problem. That’s the EPA’s domain. Proponents of the move say boaters use Grand Lake St. Marys and the $4 million will be used to ensure their safety.

Times are desperate around Grand Lake St. Marys, to be sure. Perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures, but stealing another region’/lake’s/project’s funds isn’t the way to go.

Senator Faber and all the other elected officials around Grand Lake know what the real problem there is. And so do all the state officials who are charged with changing the environment there. They know they can throw all the money in the world at the lake and put as many Band-Aids on it as possible, but nothing will change until they stop the farmers in the watershed from dumping manure into the lake.

Instead of rooting around, looking for money from other projects, they should be passing legislation that will force farmers to keep all of their manure on their own land. And they shouldn’t wait around or allow farmers years to comply.

The manure flow should stop immediately. Otherwise, huge fines would be levied that would help pay for dredging and other clean-up measures.

What good is pouring money into lake clean-up measures while the farmers are allowed to let their manure seep into the lake?

Ohio legislators apparently have no problem stealing another project’s funds, but they don’t have the guts to stand up to the farmers and halt the pollution … now and forever.

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