A proposal to allow fishing and recreational boating at the Marysville Water Reservoir on Raymond Road remains mired in debate.
In July 2013, city officials started talks with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to apply for grant money to stock the reservoir and add a dock, parking lot, bathrooms and boat ramps to make it a recreational reservoir.
At the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, members heard the first reading of a resolution authorizing the mayor to submit an application to the ODNR Waterways Safety Fund.
The resolution was designed to have a single reading, but council members decided they wanted to hear three readings -- the typical procedure -- before voting on the issue. However, the resolution was tabled when Councilman Mark Reams said he did not agree with a stipulation of the grant that says the city must allow motorized boats with engines up to 10 horsepower on the reservoir.
Reams said he sees motorized boats as a potential safety issue because the reservoir is a source of drinking water.
However, four ODNR representatives told council March 13 that the same kind of project has been completed in several other Ohio cities with good results, including Bucyrus, Findlay, Fostoria and Freemont.
Korey Brown, district manager for ODNR Division of Wildlife District One; Josh Shields, Union County wildlife officer; John Navarro, state fishing access program administrator; and Phil Miller, access program administrator for the Division of Water, attended the meeting to address concerns and answer questions.
"They gave examples of reservoirs around the state that allow motorized boats. There are actually 21, with a combined acreage of 30,000 acres used for drinking water for communities," said City Administrator Terry Emery.
But Reams said he still has questions.
"It's our job to find out what would be the disadvantages. It's their job to sell the idea -- they're the ones that want to do it," Reams said. "I'm not a water expert. We have to talk to some water expert to find out those disadvantages."
Reams said he wants to know more about the downsides of allowing motorized boats on the water.
"One is water quality. We were told that a lot of cities do this, but there are a lot of cities that don't allow gas-powered boats on their lakes. They didn't really talk about that," he said.
The reservoir was built in 2008 and has a capacity of 1.39 billion gallons. The city started using it as a drinking water source in fall 2009. A 2.1-mile gravel path around the top is often used by residents as a walking trail.
Emery said the cost to create a recreational reservoir could be between $400,000 and $500,000.
The ODNR Waterways Safety Fund grants are financed by a share of the state gas tax, watercraft registration and title fees and money from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Council will hear a second reading of the resolution at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at City Hall, 209 S. Main St.
Emery said if the resolution is approved, the city would submit a grant application this spring. Recipients will be notified later in the year.
If Marysville received a grant, design work would start in 2015 with construction in 2016.
"We're about two or two-and-a-half years away from anyone seeing the opportunity for boats to be on the reservoir," Emery said. "We have already signed a fishing agreement with ODNR that will allow them to stock our reservoir with perch starting in May of this year."