Good Things Happening at GLSM

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

The blue/green algae problem at GLSM was as sour as any lemon. With the catastrophic events of 2010 blowing the local recreational industry out of the water, it was a great time for many locals to gripe, complain, and blame. The press found it convenient to focus on a knew whipping boy and spent the next few years reminding everyone that “Ohio’s other Great Lake” was a contaminated mud hole infested with a guacamole-like substance that made you sick. At that moment, not many lake users would argue the point. In almost all instances, however, what has happened since 2010 at St. Marys has been positive. It’s a classic case where a lemon has been turned into lemonade, and you needed the lemon to get the process started. Think about it, without 2010 this area would probably still be kicking the can down the road waiting for a major lake problem to surface.

The 2010 HAB catastrophe caused major reactions, to say the least. For the most part, the call went out to solve the problem and save the lake. Millions of dollars and a couple of alum applications helped trap suspended particles and contain legacy chemicals on the bottom. Other activities were tried to prevent or contain the external loading of chemical laden runoff that frequently occurred. The concept of treatment trains was developed, and it was soon proven that they worked. Since then, trains at Prairie Creek, Coldwater Creek, and Montezuma (Beaver) Creek have been developed. Plans are in the works to add another treatment train upstream on Coldwater Creek to filter that major runoff source even more. Land is also being sought to create another treatment train between the Chickasaw creeks. Those of us who remember the days of the massive cattail marshes know how great of a natural filter they were.

Where is the money coming from to fund these projects? Basically, it’s both federal and state. For example, the EPA distributes money to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which includes dealing with toxic substances, nonpoint source pollution, habitats, native species, and invasive species. What does Lake Erie have to do with Grand Lake St. Marys? Although we’re not a major problem for Lake Erie, we are connected and have to be dealt with. The new state biennial budget includes $85 million for the H2Ohio phosphorus reduction plan with first-year monies being focused on reducing runoff into the Maumee River Watershed. Some second year monies will find its way into our area to deal with GLSM watershed issues which ultimately affect Lake Erie. There are some good things in the works to deal with water quality in the state and in our area. It’s a positive start.

So, GLSM might have been the poster child for what a lake shouldn’t be, but that’s changing. The lake has been getting cleaner and cleaner since 2010. Boating usage has increased and the quality of fishing is top drawer. The ODNR is focusing positively on the lake. Significant Division of Wildlife perch stockings have taken place since 2010, and work is being initiated to control potential invasive species from escaping GLSM and getting into the Maumee River. The end result could be the introduction of saugeye into the lake. Another recent program was the introduction of stake beds that provide fish structure. This small program is something that could have been done for years but was ignored for whatever reasons. The Division of Wildlife took an active part in this project and similar projects are planned for the future.

It’s interesting to note that the initial investigation of the East Bank bulkhead has begun. From what I understand, divers have already checked the bulkhead trying to determine the integrity of the structure and ways to fix the problems. The design process will come later this year. Part of the design calls for controlling any invasive species that make it into the lake either naturally or artificially. Although saugeye would be considered an invasive species, the Asian carp coming up Beaver Creek from the Wabash are a bigger concern. Evidently, some authorities think that Asian carp can somehow jump over the West Bank spillway during a heavy flood and get into the lake. They need to be stopped  and that’s one of the main reasons monies from the GLRI will be used for East Bank design and development along with monies designated for dam integrity issues.

When I mention that Asian carp are a big concern, some say there’s no way they can jump over the West Bank spillway. I remind those people that it makes no difference. As long as someone believes that Asian carp can get into GLSM, the East Bank bulkhead will be improved and eliminated as the last factor keeping saugeye from being stocked. Asian carp are supposed to be able to jump ten feet high. During high water, that might be enough to get them into the main lake. As a matter of fact, I bet if they got a running start, they might be able to jump 20 feet. Yes, the Asian carp problem needs to be proactively addressed, and a new East Bank spillway is part of the solution. We can’t allow these carp to get into Lake Erie. It’s convenient that saugeye also wouldn’t be able to escape. How about that.