A local state senator says he hopes three provisions he fought to include in the biennial budget aimed at helping Grand Lake St. Marys make it to the governor’s desk.
State Sen. Keith Faber proposed shifting $4 million of Waterways Safety funds initially earmarked for a marina at Caesar Creek, in Waynesville, to Grand Lake St. Marys for algae mitigation. Faber told The Evening Leader funding from the marina would then come from a capital improvement fund.
“Now there has been outcry from boating groups that don’t think Grand Lake St. Marys is as important as a marina in Caesar Creek,” Faber told The Evening Leader. “We are trying to figure out what to work out.”
Faber said money from the Waterways Safety Fund typically goes toward dredging and other safety concerns. Faber argued improving the water quality of Grand Lake St. Marys should be a priority.
“They had some concerns about the new use but what I tried to tell them was they focused their efforts on Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys was ignored,” Faber said. “I said it’s important and Grand Lake St. Marys has been a priority and the governor said it’s a priority and that’s what we are trying to advance here.”
Another tool in the box is the proposed creation of a Lake Facilities Authority to serve as a locally controlled board tasked with helping steer projects to heal the lake. Faber said the entity is a hybrid of conservation districts and port authorities.
“It would be under the control of the county commissioners in the affected counties,” Faber said. “That has a huge potential for future clean-up efforts. “For example, the EPA wants to use wetlands mitigation as an option and they would need an entity to do that.”
Faber said he favored an option that placed the most control in the hands of local officials.
“The board is of the county commissioners and anything they do is subject to local voters,” Faber said. “(It’s) giving them a local entity to help focus on Grand Lake St. Marys issues.”
The third provision is $3 million earmarked for additional dredging. Faber said of the three options, he is confident two of the items will make it through to Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
“I think I am less confident with the Caesar Creek swap,” Faber said, noting he also believed the dredging line item would make it through. “I am most confident about the Lake Facilities Authority. We know one area we have to amend because some of the changes we did to it, to limit power and authority, the language isn’t quite right. It’s better to be in the bill than out of the bill.”
A biennial budget must be approved by June 30.
By Mike Burkholder, The Evening Leader