How Do We Fix Grand Lake St. Marys?
A few short months ago, the future of Grand Lake St. Marys looked bleak. We were in the midst of perhaps the worst toxic algal bloom in the history of the United States. The lake was unusable: people were getting sick, wildlife was dying, the economy was suffering. We knew what the underlying problems were, but we didn’t have the scientific research, necessary funding, or government backing to fix those problems.
At its core, the problem must be resolved in two ways: 1) Clean the water, and 2) Prevent the water from being contaminated again. It sounds simple, but the fact is that restoring such a large body of water is a challenge that has never before been faced.
The good news is that groups such as the Lake Improvement Association and the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission have pooled their resources to spur community and government action raise funding totaling millions of dollars to fund studies that define a clear path to restoration, develop a treatment strategy for cleaning the lake, create educational resources to help producers best manage contamination contributors, and draft legislation that, when followed, will ensure that once the lake is clean it will be able to be maintained forever. The following briefly covers the solutions for Grand Lake St. Marys as defined by the GLSMRC Action Plan and offers links to additional information for in-depth knowledge.
Action Plan for Cleaning Grand Lake St. Marys
The Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission Action Plan prioritizes 8 key solutions for restoring Grand Lake St. Marys:
- Chemical treatment to Grand Lake St. Marys will reduce the phosphorus that fuels toxic algal blooms. Alum treatments began in Spring 2011
- Sediment dredging will remove the phosphorus-rich muck at the bottom of Grand Lake St. Marys. The state plans to increase dredging in 2011, and intends to add an additional dredge to help speed the dredging process
- Beneficial use of organic waste. Phosphorus is a valuable fertilizer that can be sold once extracted from Grand Lake St. Marys as well as from fields in the watershed. The GLSMRC intends to develop a viable economic package to attract private development and investment in this area; revenues can be used to further support GLSM
- Treatment train establishment. A treatment train consists of a stream bed load collector, integrated with alum treatment, followed by a constructed wetland to provide secondary treatment, then through a restored wetland for refinement, and finally to a biological filtration and aeration system (such as an AiryGator). This means water entering the lake from its tributaries is clean. Treatment trains are currently being implemented, with more to come
- Rough fish removal means removing those species that take over more desirable species in a distressed watershed. Removing rough fish reduces the availability of phosphorus to algae and helps foster the development of sport fish
- HAB prevention. Seasonally altering the micronutrient makeup of the lake water can encourage the growth of diatoms that are benefical to marine life, which will in turn use resources necessary for toxic algae growth before algal blooms can take hold
- Aeration and circulation work to reduce algal buoyancy and encourage aquatic plant growth – benefical plants that “steal” resources from algae and act as natural sediment filters
- Water level management. Sediment and phosphorus should quickly move in and out of the lake, but Grand Lake St. Marys’ shallow depth prevents this from happening
Learn more in our Knowledge Base:
Action Plan for Preventing Further Contamination
In addition to the efforts to clean Grand Lake St. Marys, steps must be taken to prevent further contamination, including:
Nutrient runoff prevention. Restoring streams, natural wetlands, buffers, and following nutrient management best practices by area producers, businesses, and private citizens will all reduce the nutrient load that results in toxic algal blooms.
Erosion prevention. Better-managed development with riparian buffers and banks populated with native flora act as natural filters for runoff nutrients and help maintain lake stability and water quality.
Industrial and residential drainage prevention. Drainage piped directly into the lake, such as unfiltered wastewater, nutrients, and chemicals, must be stopped.
Political activity and enforcement. Funding for projects that will restore Grand Lake St. Marys is necessary from the local, state, and federal levels. Legislation that requires nutrient management best practices and legislation enforcement is required.
Community support. It is imperative that the community rally behind Grand Lake St. Marys. Donate time and funding to the effort, and you will be rewarded with a lake that offers fun recreation, amazing wildlife, and a powerful economy.
Learn more in our Knowledge Base:
The future of Grand Lake St. Marys depends on you.
Yesterday, Grand Lake St. Marys was indeed the grandest of them all. Today it is in trouble. What tomorrow brings is unknown.
We can do nothing and allow the lake to meet its end. Or, we can work together to return Grand Lake St. Marys to its former glory and power as a famous recreation hub and thriving economic boon. You can start by downloading your Personal Action Plan.