Jerry Will is a livestock producer and a corn and soybean farmer in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed. In 2004, he decided to develop a nutrient management plan on his farm-- years before the state required farmers in the watershed to do so.
"Why? Well, to protect the land, and we knew the lake had some issues," said Will.
During the summer of 2009, the issues of Grand Lake St. Marys came to light. Toxic blue green algae blooms formed and returned each summer. Water quality advisories were issued and people were warned not to touch the water. Farmers took much of the blame.
"One of the things causing the problem with the lake is an overabundance of phosphorous," said Terry Mescher, conservation engineer, ODNR.
That phosphorous can come from livestock manure.
The state issues recommendations on how to control manure runoff, but because the situation at Grand Lake was so heightened-- the recommendations became rules in January of 2011. Farmers have until January of 2013 to comply. The changes, however, won't bring about an immediate solution.
"It will take many years to see the changes in the watershed take root in the lake," said Mescher.
To reduce runoff, Will installed a roof on his feeding lot, built a new manure storage area, and added filter strips along his now dry creek bed.
Lake officials are appreciative.
"A number of farmers are utilizing best practices that weren't present 4, 5, 6 years ago. So, there is some momentum there, and every little bit helps," said Milt Miller, Lake Restoration Commission.
Will and four other farmers are also participating in a study to develop even better practices. Two edge of field monitors were placed on his land. He'll try out different techniques while farming and the monitors will determine their effectiveness.
"We're getting this figured out. We're going to make huge improvements. We're learning. We have a lot of learning to do," said Will.
Also starting in mid-January, farmers in the watershed will no longer be allowed to spread manure on their fields during winter. Putting manure on frozen and snowy fields leads to a high amount of runoff. Many farmers have received federal funding to help offset the cost of implementing the new rules.