The 65 residents in attendance also heard about local programs, events and studies involving Lake Wawasee. Among the programs noted, was the Lakes in the School, where aquariums have been placed in the classrooms, including Syracuse Elementary. These aquariums contain fish found in local lakes such as crayfish, catfish, black crappie, sunfish, pumpkin seed fish and blue gill. He relayed how one student at Syracuse Elementary stated “We’ve never seen a fish before, other than on our dinner plate.” He stated “we have a lot of education to do.”
In the area of research, Bosch reported on an algae study in which Lake Wawasee was one of 58 sites, a study on lake levels at the request of many of those present; impact of irrigation to the lake and an economic study.
The algae study looked into the cause, why sometimes toxins are produced and to ward off what has occurred at Grand Lake St. Mary in Celina, Ohio, where a blue-green algae scare has caused lake values to decrease 30 percent to 50 percent. “We just ended a four-year study and we will have the results in the next few months,” stated Bosch. Asked what the present algae situation was, Bosch noted “we started really low in May/June and it crept up to 2 parts per billion.” A reading of 4 ppb results in an alert issued, at 20 ppb “it’s really bad, you want to stay out of the water. But it’s come back down. We’re still waiting to get results back from the last few weeks. There’s always a lag when you send it to the lab.”
Bosch and his students are developing a new rapid technique allowing for a sample to be taken and a screening to show the probability of an algae problem. “You’ll know immediately if you should call an alert or not worry.” Currently there is a three to six week delay in text results. “It doesn’t cut it when you talking about the health of people’s pets, children, grandchildren, yourselves.”
Concern by local residents on lake levels noted a study was done on influencing factors: precipitation, evaporation, ground water. “There’s human activities: taking out for irrigation, the Syracuse dam is a big impact.” He did note in the last 60 years, there has been two times the water level dropped as low as last summer. This was in the 1940s and 1950s. “In every case, it comes back. History repeats itself.”
Another study is irrigation impact. “We’ve received a lot of donations from folks around Lake Wawasee asking us to dig into the water level even further.” This study will help understand the impact of irrigation for agriculture, golf courses, private homes due to the lake level.
The study was conducted during the summer with data being compiled.
“I think what’s going to be surprising … irrigation for people’s lawns is more important to the lake level than what the ag irrigation and surrounding watershed is. It was a big surprise to me … try to give you scientific information. Then you can decide how you want to manage your lake here. In the absence of that scientific information, we’re just left with a lot of emotional reaction not based on real scientific information.” Bosch noted the study will be posted on the KLAS website for individuals to “scrutinize the numbers and make conclusions themselves.”
The impact of fishing to the community, just one aspect of the economic study, has been completed. This shows around $28 million in annual contribution to the county. The study is now looking at tax revenue and property values. “If our property values change, how’s that change in tax revenue going into the county?”
He shared some round numbers gathered thus far, noting the county brings in $60 million yearly in property tax revenue. Of that, $30 million is from residences and closer to $17 million is due solely to the fact there are lakes. The study is looking at how much extra a home is worth around all the lakes, because it is on the lake and “not just somewhere else in the county. We’ve figured in all the people who have second homes on the lakes, figured if the lake wasn’t here they wouldn’t have that second home. We’ve added all that up. It’s amazing over 25 percent of the tax revenue in our county is due solely to lakes.