Lake Ocheda Landowners group forms steering committee
WORTHINGTON -- A steering committee was formed Thursday night during a meeting of Lake Ocheda Landowners to begin discussing options for carp control in the chain of lakes south of Worthington. The large population of rough fish in the three basins is considered one of the biggest obstacles to creating a cleaner, healthier lake system.
Nearly 20 property owners gathered in the Farmer's Room of the Nobles County Government Center to first hear a presentation on the work completed on Mountain Lake in Cottonwood County. After listening to guest speakers Dave Bucklin of the Cottonwood County Soil and Water Conservation District and Jim Peterson, co-chair of the Mountain Lake Commission, explain the process of cleaning up their lake, several questions were raised regarding the next steps for Lake Ocheda.
Rolf Mahlberg, a landowner on the west basin and a 13-year member of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District (OOWD) board, said the district's work has so far been concentrated on the northern region of the watershed, from Herlein Slough toward Lake Okabena.
"From the watershed's perspective, we really have been proactive," he said. "We needed a consolidated effort to make sure we had the sediment under control."
The OOWD and the city combined efforts to fund the W-9 dam project, a permanent structure that works to filter out sediment before the water flows into Lake Okabena.
"Now, we want the people in the Lake Ocheda area to say it's our turn," Mahlberg added. "We need willing and interested landowners. We want this group of landowners to buy into water quality."
Mahlberg said some projects have already been implemented to reduce sediment flow into the lake. Buffer strips are in place on his property and others, while the Langseth family, on the east basin, will embark on a shoreline stabilization project this summer.
Paul Langseth, who spearheaded the landowner meetings, said people can take steps on their property to reduce sediment and excess nutrients from flowing into the lake.
"We can set aside land and create buffers through the Soil and Water Conservation District and Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District (programs)," Langseth said. "Ask them what you can do on your land that's going to help water quality."
After hearing of the work Mountain Lake did to create a plan for its lake with the help of the Clean Water Partnership and a limnologist, Nate Mahlberg asked if a plan should be started on Lake Ocheda.
OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will conduct tests on Lake Ocheda over the next three years as it develops a Total Maximum Daily Load study. Completing the TMDL is the first step in accessing state and federal funds to improve water quality.
"If we want to go further ... the carp really are the issue," Livdahl said.
DNR fisheries technician Luke Rossow of Windom said using a chemical treatment to do a fish kill would "take a lot of money," and it isn't known if chemical use is feasible on Lake Ocheda because its waters flow into the Lake Bella Wellhead Protection Area.
Other options include doing a lake draw-down, seining and installing fish barriers to keep carp from getting into sloughs for spawning.
"We probably couldn't kill off all the carp, but we could try to manage the levels," Livdahl said. The project would require intensive annual management, and the lake would need to be stocked with lots of beneficial game fish that would eat the eggs produced by spawning carp.
Rossow said the DNR would be willing to stock the lake with game fish if the watershed district could implement projects to reduce the carp levels.
If the landowners want to do a lake draw-down, Livdahl said the watershed board would need to write a management plan and get approval from at least 75 percent of the landowners along the lake.
Each landowner would get one vote per parcel, so Livdahl said if someone owned 10 parcels along Lake Ocheda, they would get 10 votes.
"Fundamentally, I think it's time to think about a process to get something done," said Madonna Carlson of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and a landowner on the west basin. She asked the "experts in the field" to develop a flow chart on what needs to happen in order for change to take place in the lake's water quality.
Deb VanderKooi, another landowner, asked if information could also be gathered on the different options for reducing the carp population in the lake.
The watershed district and members of the steering committee will work on both projects prior to the group's next meeting, which is tentatively slated for July. That event will be hosted by Paul and Al Langseth.