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Water and Light Commission approves $250,000 for land acquisition

WORTHINGTON — During its regular meeting Monday, the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission approved the allocation of $250,000 toward a parcel of land bought in conjunction with multiple other agencies. 

“Pheasants Forever was successful in acquiring a parcel of property that was located within our wellhead protection area,” Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain said.

The total cost for the project was approximately $850,000. It will be paid for by a variety of sources.

According to Hain, 66 percent of the 147-acre parcel is considered a highly vulnerable area.

“That would be the absolute worst place you’d want somebody to spill a big tank of fertilizer or anything,” Hain said, adding that over-application of chemicals would have been harmful as well.

Two abandoned gravel pits are on the property. Hain said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is planning to fill them in with dirt.

“Everything is happening relatively quickly,” Hain said. “They are going to level off the gravel pits, and everything else will be burned and seeded by the middle of May.”

While that is a quicker timeline than normal, Hain explained the hope is it will be a land dedication site for the governor’s pheasant opener in October.

There are opportunities for private donations, with names to be etched on a granite monument in a parking area.

“They are naming this wildlife management area the Worthington Wells Wildlife Management Area,” Hain said. “A lot of good things happening there.”

The up-front amount passed unanimously. Hain said there could be more funds needed and, when all monies are collected, that dollar total could increase.

“I’m certain it won’t be any less than that,” Hain said. “I’m hoping it won’t much more.”

In other news, the commission reaffirmed the ban on non-essential water use.

While Well 26 gained five inches on Friday, its level is still seven feet lower than at the same time last year and nine feet, 10 inches below the 16-year average.

“We are running behind our normal recharge,” Hain said. “That isn’t terribly surprising. As cold as it was and as deep as the frost was — and the fact there is still a lot of frost still in the ground — hopefully we’ll see something.”

In some good news, Hain said the lake levels are rising, but there is a long way to go before the ban would be lifted.

The daily take from Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water has also been increased.

“We are taking about a million gallons of water a day now,” Hain said, adding that’s about as much as LPRW is comfortable selling to WPU.

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.