EDITORIAL MUG: Editorial art

Government is easy to be cynical about.

When we think of government, we often think of the national politicians who make themselves the face of it. 

That’s a sure strike against.

We probably also think of bureaucracy, of lines or requirements that are frustrating to many of us. 

Strike two.

And of course for many, government equals taxes — money out of your own pocket. 

Strike three.

But for even the most cynical among us, we’d like to think it would be difficult to sneer at the multi-agency effort that has answered the call to help reverse the problematic trends at Mozingo Lake that have caused longstanding issues with the taste and odor of our drinking water.

Since the lake was briefly closed to public contact in January 2020, bringing the blue-green algae issue to the forefront of city priorities, agencies at every level of government have stepped up to provide resources, expertise and on-the-ground assistance, in addition to our own local officials.

At the local level, the city of Maryville immediately produced a cogent, forward-thinking and long-term plan to attack the problem from three angles: improving the condition of the lake itself, reducing nutrient runoff from the surrounding watershed area that is likely to be the primary cause of the algae blooms, and overhauling water treatment facilities to be able to handle the more intense compounds causing the aesthetic issues with the drinking water. The city has already spent more than $2.5 million on items like algicide treatments for the lake and the installation of a GAC adsorber to better filter the water before it gets to our taps.

And for more than a year now, the Mozingo Lake Workgroup, made up of officials from the city of Maryville, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service and the Missouri Rural Water Association, has been meeting about every six weeks, building action plans to combat the algae blooms that have affected recreation on the lake and the drinking water that comes from it.

In August, the U.S. Geological Survey partnered with Missouri DNR on monitoring programs in the watershed area, and the USGS last year began mapping the bottom of the lake. That program was only possible because Missouri DNR has made Mozingo Lake a priority, and freed up more than $230,000 specifically for use on helping us track nutrient runoff. The USGS contributed another $141,300 in federal funds.

Many of those agencies were present Tuesday, at a kickoff event for a $1 million effort over the next four years through the NRCS to incentivize landowners in the watershed area to implement conservation practices that will help trap sediment and reduce nutrient runoff. That initiative adds to similar programs already active, like a $200,000 cost-share program authorized by the Soil and Water Districts Commission for best management practices in the Mozingo watershed, and another $200,000 by the NRCS.

This will not be a quick process. As City Council member Tye Parsons said at a council meeting last December, “it’s not a problem that we walked into overnight, and it’s not a problem that will be solved overnight.”

But solving problems the right way takes time, and with a mess three decades in the making, there’s a lot of problem-solving needed.

The effort to pitch in and help clean up our lake is neighbor-helping-neighbor at its finest, and a reminder that though we sometimes forget it or even prefer not to acknowledge it, we are part of a larger community — one that sometimes really is here to help, especially when we need it.

Not bad for government work.