The federal government Monday put its faith in a project that has become northwest Ohio’s most aggressive effort to solve the bacteria problem that has lingered at Maumee Bay State Park for years, agreeing to fund a man-made wetland that will cost at least $1.35 million.
The project is designed to filter out pollutants that flow into Wolf Creek and its associated stream, Berger Ditch. The creek starts in Northwood. The ditch bisects the park.
The proposed wetland has taken on different shapes and sizes since it was first envisioned in 2005 following an intensive, three-year study in which DNA-like mapping evidence was used to identify the park’s major bacteria sources.
As recently as a year ago, the project was expected to cost $5.26 million, and involve 30 to 40 acres of land in Oregon and Jerusalem Township.
Now it may be done for as little as $1.35 million, and involve as few as eight acres — all within the park, according to Daryl Dwyer, a University of Toledo researcher overseeing its construction.
Mr. Dwyer said the wetland will take about a year to build, and that he hopes construction will begin this winter. Cost savings are being achieved by using excavated dirt on a nearby sledding hill instead of paying for the expense of hauling it off-site, he said.
The federal government’s $1.35 million grant for the project was the largest of 11 in Ohio that were announced Monday at UT’s Lake Erie Center in Oregon, totaling $4.5 million.
All are among $30 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants the Obama administration is announcing in the coming weeks.
Bacteria problems plague many Great Lakes beaches, but Maumee Bay State Park is one of the few in which a man-made wetland as been identified as a possible remedy.
Mr. Dwyer acknowledged during the news conference there is no guarantee it will fix most of the problem.
But Cameron Davis, senior adviser to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the person whom White House officials have assigned to coordinate Great Lakes recovery efforts, said the federal government’s interest in that project is a sign it is “not shying away from innovative projects.”
Another major project funded for the Toledo area is one for nearly $500,000, in which Wayne State University physiologist Jeffrey L. Ram said he will attempt to develop a screening process for early detection of invasive species.
Many exotics, such as zebra mussels can damage lake ecology and drive up industry costs.
Mr. Ram said he will use Toledo Harbor as his base of operations because it is the warmest, the most conducive for exotics, and the most biologically vulnerable part of the lake system.
Grants for other Great Lakes states are to be announced later.
“The new standard of care is no longer about containing the damage,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s about proactively making the Great Lakes better for the next generation.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), a former urban planner, held up copies of weather maps published in The Blade in June and August while discussing this summer’s extreme heat in the context of a broader debate about climate change.
Protecting the Great Lakes is more imperative now because water is becoming more coveted globally as the Earth’s climate continues to warm, she said.
“We are moving into a different age, I believe. We have signs all around us that life is changing,” Miss Kaptur said. “With climate change, the pressures [to protect the lakes] are even greater.”
The Great Lakes region’s $30 million in grant money is among the $300 million Congress has authorized for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative cleanup work during the current fiscal year.
The initiative was created in response to Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to infuse Great Lakes cleanup efforts with $5 billion in new money before he leaves office.
The administration got $475 million approved by Congress during the program’s first year. Mr. Obama has requested $350 million for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
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