ODNR designates Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed distressed

Due to the unprecedented harmful algal blooms of 2009 and 2010, the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed has been designated a watershed in distress as of January 18, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

A recent analysis, conducted by ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Resources, concluded that the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed met the criteria for designation as a watershed in distress, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code 1501:15-5-20.

The study looked at a number of issues, such as:

Is the watershed listed as impaired by nutrients from agricultural sources, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency?

Does the watershed exhibit conditions that can affect public health?

Is there a threat or presence of contaminants in a public drinking water source or recreational body of water?

Do unacceptable nuisance conditions exist including the depletion of dissolved oxygen resulting in impacts to aquatic life?

The analysis report was submitted to the seven-member Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission for review on January 18. The members unanimously voted to support the designation.

The new designation requires additional regulations for livestock operations and manure management within a distressed watershed. Specifically, all livestock operations and manure applicators handling greater than 350 tons and/or 100,000 gallons of manure per year must immediately begin following U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service standards for land application.

Nutrient management plans must be submitted to the Division of Soil and Water Resources; affected operations will be required to conform to the management plans by December 15, 2012. The rules also restrict winter application of manure beginning January 19, 2013.

The GLSM watershed encompasses 59,160 acres across Mercer and Auglaize counties in western Ohio. Not only is it a popular recreational lake, but Grand Lake St. Marys serves as a community drinking water source.

Over the years, the lake has become increasingly enriched by phosphates and nitrates from a number of man-made and natural sources. These nutrients have contributed to the decline of the water quality and the occurrence of harmful algal blooms.

To learn more about the GLSM watershed designation or nutrient management programs, visit ohiodnr.com or call (614) 265-6610. Mercer County residents may also call the Mercer Soil and Water Conservation District at (419) 586-3289 and Auglaize County residents may call the Auglaize Soil and Water Conservation District at (419) 738-4016 for assistance and further information.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at ohiodnr.com.

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