Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Some money left for private channel dredging

Future of funding remains uncertain

By Nancy Allen
There is about $30,000 in ODNR funds that local state park officials can use for private channel dredging, but it is unknown how much future funding will be available.
State Park Manager Craig Morton reported the news to members of the private Lake Development Corporation on Monday. Morton had told LDC members at their January meeting that state money designated for private channel dredging ended this year, and he was unsure how much money was left in the fund.
"Dan West (chief of the Division of Parks and Recreation) met with watercraft folks and we can use $30,000 leftover for fiscal year '08, which ends the end of June, for a few years," Morton said. "We have reason to believe it will be a bit better."
There are many housing subdivisions on Grand Lake with numerous private channels, a number of which were constructed in recent years.
Morton explained last month that dredging criteria that went into effect in September 1997 reduced the amount of funding available from ODNR's Division of Watercraft for dredging private channels by 10 percent each year, and those funds officially ended this year. There was some confusion about how much money was left for the final year, fiscal year 2008.
Morton said to prepare for the loss of funds, state park officials have tried to get as many private channel dredging jobs done as possible in recent years.
There still are many dredge jobs the state park has lined up this year - like open lake dredging in bay and cove areas and those at the mouths of channels - that will get done because they are not private areas, he said.
If no more state money becomes available in the future for private channel dredging, Morton said property owners can hire dredge contractors or state park crews to dredge private channels. State park crews would have to complete the work outside regular park work hours.
Property owners still would be required to get permission from the state park and receive the necessary Ohio EPA and U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers permits for dredging.
Under state budget matters, Morton said the local park will lose one seasonal maintenance worker, a position that was voluntarily cut to stay within the state park's budget for fiscal year 2008. As for fiscal year 2009, Morton said job cuts coming down from Columbus are a possibility, but he did not anticipate any.
"We know it's going to be tight all year fiscal year '09 and we're not going to be able to spend as much on maintenance and personnel," he said. "We won't cut back on mowing in fiscal year '08, but we don't know yet if we will have to cut back in mowing for fiscal year '09."
Morton said to stay within its local budget, the state park put off some office renovations planned for last fall, but was able to replace a sewage pump lift station that serves the Windy Point public restroom.
Morton reported the state park dredged a total of 100,871 cubic yards of sediment from several channels and areas around the lake including Burge Creek, the main channel leading to the Shingle Shack area; Duckfoot channel at Duckfoot Landing near Behm's Restaurant; Grand Haven channel in the area of state Route 219 and Karafit Road; the Behm's Landing main channel and some side channels; and the St. Marys Boat Club channel near the state park office.
The state park also placed broken concrete it received from the city of St. Marys along 450 feet of shoreline along state Route 364 and the Villa Nova area to protect the shoreline.
Morton also reported the state park will not do stump removal this fall because the Grand Clam dredge used to do the work is damaged and won't be repaired in time.
The Grand Clam had a "hole punched in it" while removing stumps this past fall, he said.
"It won't get repaired until October because there are too many other jobs on the list," Morton said. "We will have to get big state dredge crew equipment out here to pull it out of the water and pulling it out and doing all the welding could take up to a month or six weeks to do."
Steve Dorsten, canal operations manager for the Miami & Erie Canal, reported the lake's level was about 9 inches above normal pool.
LDC members on Monday agreed to write a support letter to state and federal officials for the city of Celina. The city intends to apply for grants to construct a $6 million system that would allow for perpetual dredging of the northwest side of the lake and perhaps other parts of the lake in the future.
Donna Grube, director of the Auglaize & Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she too would write a letter of support for the project.
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Twenty-four people face alcohol-related charges after Celina Police officers responded to reports of underage drinking and/or loud music at three weekend parties. [More]
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