By Mike Burkholder, The Evening Leader

A local lake restoration group is now looking to find a new face for its efforts to help heal Grand Lake St. Marys.

Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Facilitator Tom Knapke told members of the Lake Improvement Association during their monthly meeting on Saturday he received the green light to begin accepting applications for a lake manager. The position would be responsible for overseeing projects regarding the restoration of the lake.

“That’s a full-time position, that’s 24/7,” Knapke said. “That’s going to be funded by the state and with private monies out here in the local area. We think that’s extremely important with all the initiatives taking place at this point in time. We need someone to do this 24/7 to assist us.”

The position, which will start being advertised today, has a three-year funding commitment from the state. Knapke said he hoped after the three years there would be enough funding locally to retain the position.

“That person will report to us, meaning the commission,” Knapke said. “We will have local control.”

The position is expected to be filled in the coming weeks with a start date of the first week of January. Knapke said the position should help the group continue its work on restoring the lake.

More information can be found on the LIA’s website at

“We think we need a lake manager to come in and assist us in that process,” Knapke said. “We’ve got eight vendors coming in next week … We are going to start evaluating those eight vendors to assist us in the lake cleanup. That’s going to take some time.”

Knapke also touched upon the potential alum treatment for the lake next year. After this year’s results showed promise, state and local officials have been pushing for another treatment in early spring.

“We need about $5 million,” Knapke said. “We’ve got about $1.5 million ready, earmarked for us.”

LIA President Tim Lovett touched upon the 2012 budget. He highlighted a few projects, including an oil derrick.

“We may be interested in helping clean up some beaches as well,” Lovett said. “We’ll be looking at that in January when we start with the new board and putting our goals together.”

Members projected the LIA’s budget to be $69,200 for 2012.

Lovett also updated members on the progress regarding Ag Conversions. Representatives from the company previously gave a presentation for members based upon their proposal to turn manure into fertilizer and dredged material into potting soil.

“They were looking at getting a process in here for the manure by next spring,” Lovett said.

“Since then, they’ve decided they think they can do the manure as well as the potting soil piece. They just submitted a business plan this week to the state with that in mind. That’s some pretty exciting news. If they can get that in and get it up and get it scalable and functional, that has a lot of potential to help some of the issues we have out there.”

The next meeting of the LIA is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 3 at the Celina Moose Lodge.