One word can sum up several local officials’ reaction to a meeting with three members of Gov. John Kasich’s cabinet — optimistic.
Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director David Mustine and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Nally on Friday met with local officials regarding a recently released action plan for Grand Lake St. Marys. St. Marys Development Manager Todd Fleagle said the meeting was beneficial to all parties involved in the fight for Grand Lake St. Marys.
“I’m impressed by the new administration in the ability to get the department heads down here to discuss this issue,” Fleagle told The Evening Leader. “Obviously that’s a priority and we know it’s important to them and Grand Lake St. Marys is on their radar.”
Fleagle said it is impossible to determine if another algae bloom will hit the lake this year. However, he said he is confident the state officials will do all they can to prevent that from occurring in 2011.
“There’s no silver bullet and no one can guarantee what the toxins will be,” Fleagle said. “I think everyone is heading in the right direction.”
Lake Improvement Association President Tim Lovett called the meeting “very positive.” As president of the LIA, Lovett is among the people at the forefront of the fight to help save the lake.
“All the directors were very positive in their message of the lake and in their support of the lake,” Lovett said.
“I think we have another opportunity to progress what we are trying to do forward. We shared our ideas with the directors, explained them and they were positive about it. We have a plan in place and support and now it gets down to implementing it.”
A switch in administrations could have resulted in the issue being thrown on the back burner. However, Lovett said he is optimistic that will not be the case.
“I think, quite frankly, the turnover has been very good on this from the previous administration to the current administration,” Lovett said.
“You always have concerns like that — will things be dropped, will priorities change and it appears that has not happened. That’s a very positive thing and I think this group understands where we rank in terms of their priorities and we’re very high on the list and that’s a very positive thing.”
Mercer County Economic Development Director Jared Ebbing said one of the options talked about during the meeting was opening up the spillway. The previous administration, he said, was opposed to the option.
“The DNR director said could you please examine that so it could be looked at as a viable option,” Ebbing said. “The issue is how big of an impact zone is it going to have. We don’t know.”
Like Lovett, Ebbing said he is confident the directors will keep a keen eye on Grand Lake St. Marys and work quickly to reduce the chances of another algae outbreak.
“It was extremely positive,” Ebbing said. “Everything about the meeting was filled with hope, positive feelings and looking in the right direction. This is the beginning, not just a meeting and we’ll see you in a couple of years. We are going to have multiple meetings going forward and that’s all we can ask for on a local level. It is a state lake, it affects our region and because it affects our region, we want to have a voice. There’s a lot of knowledge and history here and we want to work in concert with the state because it’s such an important issue. Everything they said was encouraging. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more.”