GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS — The summer of 2010 was a nightmare for businesses on Grand Lake St. Marys.
Toxic blue-green algae blooms made the lake unsafe for swimming or boating.
Microcystin levels were through the roof and people were urged not to have any contact with the water.
The Lake Improvement Association has done much in the past nine years to work to help clean up Grand Lake St. Marys.
They’ve got more dredges scooping out the phosphorous-laden sediment on the bottom of the lake. They convinced the state to treat the lake with alum to try and see if that would help the problem. They’ve set up treatment trains and wetland areas to try and filter the water coming into the lake and they’ve worked with the state on stricter guidelines for manure management, a suspected source of the phosphorous overload going into the lake.
“Alum is not a long-term fix so what it did is it bought us some time to get some other things in place, namely to create wetlands, both in-lake and onshore wetlands next to the tributaries going into Grand Lake as well as to buy our producers time out in the watershed to install more conservation practices on their farms,” Nick Rentz, president of the Lake Improvement Association.
This tact seems to be working.
“Over the past five years, we’ve seen a precipitous drop in microcystin levels on the average. Last year, being a standout year in terms of a much, much, lower average than what we’ve seen lately,” said Rentz.
Kevin Mast, co-owner of the Boathouse at Grand Lake, says he’s pleased with how business has been.
“Last year was one of the biggest years since we had that original blue-green algae,” said Mast.
So far this year business has been good.
“Our service is through the roof. We are so busy right now. We’re just trying to get boats in the water and it’s just crazy busy here,” said Mast.
Buzz Goodwin, who owns Cozy Campground, Cozy Marina and Bayview Marinas says things are starting to come back, but much still needs to be done as far as cleaning up the lake.
“This thing is a political mess and no matter what I do I hurt myself because if I tell everybody the truth, I’m scaring business away. I can join the bandwagon and drink the Kool-Aid but I’m not telling the truth,” said Goodwin.
Goodwin acknowledges things have gotten better.
“Any growth we’ve had is great. It’s great to see people trying to come back. It’s great to see people buying properties again on the lake. It’s great that we’ve had our best year in ten years last year but what caused the algae bloom is still going on at 100% plus levels and nothing’s really been done to stop it to slow it down,” he said.
Goodwin blames “political handling of the lake community and the farmers and not being able to enforce the rules or put in the necessary infrastructure that needs to take care of the farmers’ pollution.”
Goodwin knows that there is a fix for the problems on Grand Lake St. Marys.
“I want this to be done the right way. I want people here. I want them to enjoy this lake. I want kids to learn how to fish. I want kids to learn how to camp. I want parents to bring their families here. I want people to rent our boats and come camping and enjoy the water and catch their first fish. I want people to come swimming and water ski. I want every activity that could possibly happen on this lake and nobody to be scared of it. I want the red ‘danger’ signs taken down and I want Grand Lake to be grand again. I really do,” said Goodwin.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.