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Watershed district lists plans to improve area lakes

WORTHINGTON — With extreme variability in dissolved oxygen testing on Lake Ocheda this winter, it appears the likelihood of a significant fish kill has dwindled. The news is disappointing for Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District board members, who have spent the past several years talking about reducing the high population of carp in the lake and restoring aquatic life on the three basins.

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During its meeting Tuesday, watershed board president Les Johnson said it’s time to promote a management plan on the lake and invite landowners to discuss options and “put it to a vote.”

Johnson was optimistic the Department of Natural Resources would be willing to work with the watershed district on a management plan for the nearly 1,700-acre Lake Ocheda.

Meanwhile, board member Rolf Mahlberg expressed his disappointment in getting a commercial fisherman to come in and net rough fish from any of the three basins in the last three years.

“I would like to move forward with some kind of strategy on improving water quality,” Mahlberg said. “I just wish that one of the strategies that (landowner) group had adopted would have been addressed.”

OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said the lake went into the past two winters with low water levels. Despite the depth of the ice this winter created by the colder-than-normal temperatures, there are still areas on Lake Ocheda that have more than a foot of water and dissolved oxygen levels that are quite good for fish survivability.

Had the landowners taken steps to approve a lake draw-down last year, Livdahl said it would have increased the likelihood of a fish kill.

“The question is, do we start talking to landowners again and asking them for ideas, or do we go to the DNR and they come up with a recommended plan that we can bring to the people?” Livdahl asked.

The board resolved to bring the committee representing the landowners together in a meeting with the DNR Area Fisheries Supervisor and DNR Wildlife Manager Bill Schuna to discuss options.

“Before I leave this board, I would like to know that we tried — that we made a real hard attempt,” said Johnson.

In other business, the board:

* Approved the 2014 budget of $194,650. The OOWD will receive $169,500 through its district levy, with another $500 in Local Government Aid. Other revenue comes from permit fees, Clean Water Partnership reimbursements, property income, investment income and a Worthington stormwater program.

* Discussed the 2014 Annual Plan, which highlights goals the watershed district wants to accomplish in the coming year. Livdahl reported that the district will implement a clean water monitoring plan this year, and equipment will be installed on Lake Okabena to monitor stream flow coming into the lake, analyze the lake bottom sediment and collect data on streambank and ag land erosion contributions in the lake. Wenck and Associates will conduct the lake studies.

Other projects identified include the installation of a woodchip bioreactor demonstration site, moving ahead with a cover crops demonstration site and possibly seeding an additional 6 acres of grass at Lake Bella Park. Livdahl said he will also continue to encourage the city of Worthington to work on stabilization of Okabena Creek, north of Oxford Street and east of Diagonal Road.

* Will look at the feasibility of creating a woodchip bioreactor demonstration site on the Rolf Mahlberg farm south of Worthington near Lake Ocheda.

Livdahl said both the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the University of Minnesota are working on demonstration sites to showcase the work of the bioreactors. Their use has been found to reduce phosphorus and nitrogen from water flowing through drainage tile, thereby cleaning it before it flows into nearby lakes and streams.

“Both nitrogen and phosphorus are detrimental to our water quality,” Livdahl said.

Mahlberg has two tiles that outlet into a pond on his site, which could allow for one tile to outlet through a bioreactor and be a comparison to the tile water that is untreated.

“If there is an ability to remove nutrients, and especially phosphorus, why wouldn’t we experiment with it?” Livdahl asked the board.

* Received a request from Dennis Rick, a resident of the Glenwood Heights subdivision, to continue to experiment with Bioverse products on the nearly 1-acre stormwater pond in that neighborhood. The watershed district partnered with Bioverse to test product on the site in 2013 to reduce the presence of algae.

In all, Bioverse placed 32 of its Aquaspheres in the pond between June and August. The watershed’s share of that cost was $670. In addition, two Bioverse Rush treatments were applied to the pond at a cost-share of $76 to the OOWD. Treatments would have been applied in September during a normal year, but the water level was too low in 2013 to warrant treatment.

If the OOWD wanted to continue the treatments in 2014 at full cost, Livdahl estimated it would need to spend $1,832. He planned to check with Bioverse officials to see if the company would be interested in subsidizing part of that cost.

* Discussed relocation of the boom under the 10th Avenue bridge in Worthington that is designed to block floating algae from moving up Whiskey Ditch. Livdahl said he had talked with Bioverse, and it wants to continue to work on improving water quality in the ditch. Moving the boom closer to the lake outlet, underneath the bicycle bridge, could mean fewer occurrences of decaying algae in the ditch and therefore, fewer odor problems in the area of Centennial Park.

* Discussed a Joint Powers Agreement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the Herlein-Boote water diversion project.

* Discussed the potential in purchasing an all-terrain vehicle for the watershed district. The ATV would be used for spraying, seeding and other maintenance on watershed district-owned property. Three board members volunteered to look at models available locally and get price quotes.

* Re-elected the present slate of officers for 2014, with Les Johnson remaining as president, Rolf Mahlberg as vice-president, Jeff Rogers as secretary and Casey Ingenthron as treasurer.

* Adopted the watershed district’s 2013 annual report. It will be available for public viewing in the near future on the district’s website,

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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