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Published: Monday, 10/1/2007

Public invited to see wetlands proposals for Maumee Bay

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Immersing yourself into the thick of wetlands research might not sound like the most appealing way to spend an evening.

But think beaches. Not marshes.

Conceptual design proposals for a man-made wetlands project that could help reduce the bacteria load at Maumee Bay State Park's two beaches will be unveiled at a public meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the park's lodge. The meeting will begin with an open-house format, with a 40-minute presentation starting at 7 p.m.

The proposals will be just rough ideas of what the project ultimately may look like, said Kurt Erichsen, vice president of environmental planning for the

Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, one of the meeting's presenters.

Some $95,000 in money and in-kind services was spent just to get the project that far. $20,000 went to the project consultant, Toledo-based Hull & Associates, Mr. Erichsen said.

The cost for the final design won't be determined until a conceptual version is chosen. The final design will determine the parameters of the work which, ultimately, determine the construction costs.

"The timetable will depend upon funding," he said.

The meeting also will give the public a chance to be updated about Maumee Bay State Park's bacteria problem in general.

With 12 swimming advisories posted for the park's Lake Erie beach and 7 for the inland beach, the 2007 bathing season wasn't particularly good, although there have been worse. Most advisories are triggered by storms that flush fecal matter into the water.

Water samples were taken four days per week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County, the granddaddy of Ohio's state park system, continued to have among the lowest bacteria counts at its beach, as it has for years. It had advisories posted five days this summer.

Countless strategies to reduce the bacteria at Maumee Bay State Park's two beaches have been deployed for years, from scaring off geese with high-pitch frequencies and pop guns to enforcing laws against releases from faulty septic tanks.

A man-made wetland to curb the park's bacteria was proposed in 2005 following a three-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Toledo.

The study identified a waterway from Northwood to Oregon as a primary culprit. Called Wolf Creek, it flows into Berger Ditch, which bisects the park.

Officials believe a man-made wetlands project, which would likely cost millions of dollars, could filter bacteria from the creek and ditch before it reaches the park's beaches.

They also believe a properly sited and well-designed project also could improve the park's wildlife habitat and add to its aesthetics.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.



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