ST. MARYS — The Grand Lake St. Marys Lake Improvement Association is working to highlight a recent proposed change that LIA President Nick Rentz said would increase the amount of phosphates entering Grand Lake St. Marys and hamper current efforts to rid the lake of toxic algae blooms.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture currently restricts manure application between Dec. 15 and March 1 to crack down on nutrient runoff that often finds its way downstream and into distressed watersheds. Under new rules proposed late last week, that blanket ban during those months would be stripped from the Ohio Administrative Code and replaced with circumstantial restrictions — such as laws stopping application when the ground is already, frozen, covered with snow or inundated with rain.
“It’s more nutrient loading,” Rentz said. “This could really set us back a long ways, so this is a very big deal.”
“The (ODA) is seeking only to clarify conditions in which spreading nutrients is appropriate in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed,” ODA Communications Director Mark Bruce said. “The draft rules, in their current state, would enact similar enforcement guidelines for all watersheds in distress and would provide producers more opportunities to apply manure, while still adhering to science-based management practices that reduce the risk of runoff.”
Bruce said the department is looking into manure application rules as part of Gov. John Kasich’s executive order to reduce nutrient runoff, and the proposed rule changes can still be amended depending upon input from stakeholders and other interested parties.
This past weekend, LIA encouraged the public to voice opposition on the rule change as it currently stands, sending out a “call to action” this past Sunday upon learning about the state’s proposal.
“This is a step backwards,” Rentz said. “We have no idea why would want to change something that’s working, and we have proven data that shows it’s working.”
Dr. Stephen Jacquemin, an associate professor at Wright State University Lake Campus, recently reported to LIA that microcystin levels have dropped by 15 to 20 milligrams per liter this past summer. High levels can cause skin and liver damage.
That reduction can be attributed to the treatment trains and reconstructed wetlands at Prairie Creek, Coldwater Creek and Beaver Creek, which can treat some the lake’s waters if they are at under capacity due to decreased water flow, Jacquemin said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.