Watershed prepares for invasives
WORTHINGTON -- From keeping invasive species like zebra mussels out of local lakes, researching ways to reduce the number and duration of algal blooms and finding ways to rid lakes of common carp, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District has a lot of work before it in the coming year.
In recent months, the district's board has discussed creation of a five-year plan -- projects it wants or can afford to do -- all in an effort to improve water quality and make the lakes more enjoyable for those who use them. But with invasive species "knocking on the door," the board decided at its meeting last Tuesday to finance an educational campaign in hopes of keeping species like the zebra mussel out of Lake Okabena and other lakes in southwest Minnesota.
OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said he's had conversations with Heron Lake Watershed District Administrator Jan Voit and Lake Okabena Improvement Association (LOIA) board member Genny Turner about the need to educate lake users on the need to empty bilge tanks and minnow buckets before moving from one lake to the next. With zebra mussels discovered in the Iowa Great Lakes last summer, they want to do what they can to prevent the spread to local lakes.
"We consider this a serious threat to our watershed," said OOWD board member Rolf Mahlberg.
Zebra mussels can move between lakes and be carried to other water bodies on any piece of equipment. They attach themselves to any hard surface, whether it's a rock, a dock or the underside of a boat or jet-ski.
"I think the worst-case scenario is they come and we didn't tell anybody," said Livdahl, who encouraged the board to spend $1,500 on educational materials. Livdahl will ask the LOIA to spearhead the education efforts.
"This ... is coming and everyone needs to know about it and take it seriously," he said, adding that he and Voit plan to talk with sportsmen's clubs in the area to ask for help in stopping the spread of invasive species.
Lake additive study
Livdahl has also had discussions with Bioverse, the company that recently moved into the Bioscience Advancement Center north of Worthington, about the potential for its products to be tested locally.
Bioverse manufactures a biodegradable sphere containing bacteria and enzymes that help to reduce the potential for algal blooms. The products, AquaSpheres, are weighted and sink to the bottom of a water body and, over time, disintegrate.
Discussion has focused on conducting a pilot project on either Whiskey Ditch in Worthington, or in the Glenwood Heights storm water pond west of Olson Park.
Livdahl told board members it would cost approximately $3,500 to do the pilot project.
"Is it just aesthetics? Is it going to look better and smell better, or improve water quality," asked OOWD board member Casey Ingenthron.
Those are some of the unknowns at this point, but if the product has a chance of working, board member Jay Milbrandt encouraged the board to consider financing it.
"This is cutting edge, and it's a local business. It would be a testimonial to them," Milbrandt said. "If it doesn't work, well, we tried something. If it does work, I think $3,500 would be a cheap solution to clean up Whiskey Ditch."
Nobles County Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr., who attends the OOWD meetings, encouraged the board to seek E.O. Olson Trust dollars for the pilot project. The E.O. Olson board meets in April, and is looking for projects that would improve water quality.
Floating islands ordered
The OOWD has ordered two kidney bean-shaped floating islands of 50 square feet each to place in the E.O. Olson storm water pond on the Minnesota West campus. The islands, which cost approximately $2,400, will be picked up on April 1. Meanwhile, Livdahl said he will need to order about $325 worth of plant plugs for the islands.
"This is an experiment to see how they work," Livdahl said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.