More than a dozen residents Tuesday night showed up to get a first-hand look at a device whose job is to help heal Grand Lake St. Marys.

The Barnes Creek sediment collector, located near the St. Marys Township Fire Department, was on display for residents looking to get a look at one of the three devices that help remove sediment from the tributaries before it reaches Grand Lake St. Marys. Grand Lake/Wabash Watershed Coordinator Laura Walker walked on the bag attached to the collector that holds the sediment in place as it drains out the water to show residents how the device works.

“It’s good for them to see what their tax dollars are doing but it’s also good to see what their community is doing,” Walker told The Evening Leader. “The Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission has put in a lot of money and time into getting these together and working with the EPA to get the grants and working with the township trustees here to get it together. It’s good that they can come out and see it.”

Being able to see it, Walker noted, helped make the device seem real. The event also allowed residents to ask questions about how the device operates.

The device sits in the creek and as water flows over it, it pumps sediment into a bag located on land. The sediment sits in the bag as water drains out. There are three sediment collectors placed around the lake — one in Barnes Creek, one in Chickasaw Creek and one in Beaver Creek.

“They run according to the flow that goes by,” Walker said. “There are a lot of possibilities on science up and coming for them. They’ve talked about flocking out more sediment.”

Last month, a consulting firm released a report dubbing the Airy Gators a success. Walker said she hopes similar data in the future could determine the same for the sediment collectors.

“It may take a whole season,” Walker said. “Hopefully, after we have some sediment in the bag, they will pull some samples and get those analyzed for what they are pulling out.”

Grand Lake St. Marys Interim Park Manager Brian Miller said the event was a benefit for the community in that residents could see — and touch — some parts of the device. Miller said he also hoped to dispel some myths floating around the community regarding the devices.

“I think some common misconceptions out there have to do with how effective these things are,” Miller said. “This big storm event that went through last week — these aren’t designed to catch rain coming during those events. It’s the lower flows when these will be maximized to do their best.”

If results show the sediment collectors are working as intended, Miller said he could envision the devices being placed in all major tributaries leading to Grand Lake St. Marys. However, he noted, all that would take time.

“This spring, I hope people can understand like the Airy Gators, it’s an experiment and we are going to have to tweak these to maximize their efficiency,” Miller said. “This spring is going to be a big learning curve.”

If placed at the major tributaries, Miller estimated there would be seven installed. He also said having a device at each tributary could be beneficial in reducing phosphorus loading in the lake.

Tom Knapke, facilitator for the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission, said he hopes residents left the event with a better understanding of how the device works to remove phosphorus.

“People look at things differently,” Knapke said. “I think if you can explain it to them in person, it’s easier for them to understand.”


By Mike Burkholder, The Evening Leader