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Watershed ID's projects to benefit Lake Okabena

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District administrator Dan Livdahl stands near an area of erosion on Okabena Creek Wednesday afternoon in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- With $300,000 available from the county's Clean Water Partnership fund and the potential to access more money from the city's sale of the hospital in Worthington, managers of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District went to work Tuesday to identify projects to benefit water quality in Lake Okabena.

OOWD administrator Dan Livdahl said most of the "easy fixes" have already been completed, with more costly ventures still on the docket.

Four potential projects were discussed during the watershed board's meeting Tuesday, including a challenging stream bank stabilization project along the Okabena Creek.

A 950-foot stretch of the creek behind Solid Rock Assembly church and the Sanford Worthington Clinic is eroding, causing additional sediment to be carried through Whiskey Ditch and into Lake Okabena.

Water clarity in the creek north of Interstate 90 is considered to be good, but once runoff makes its way through the winding creek, Livdahl said the water takes on the appearance of chocolate milk because of all the dirt it collects from the stream bank.

While the creek is surrounded by city-owned land, Livdahl said if the OOWD board deemed the stabilization project important, a letter should be sent to the city to at least begin discussion on the necessary work.

"The city has hospital funds and is saying, 'Come to us with projects,'" Livdahl told the board. "I don't think this is on the city's radar to be done now, but I think it could be if we made a request.

"This has been a segment that's needed care for as long as I've been around," he added.

The creek is the next-in-line project for the watershed district, which has long focused its efforts on improving water quality flowing into Lake Okabena. Much of that work has included providing incentives to farmers to establish filter strips along the creek, financing a wetland and constructing the W-9 dam in Section 9, Worthington Township.

Livdahl said stabilizing the stream bank could be a costly project, but "until you send someone out there to give us a recommendation and a cost estimate, you don't know."

While the water level is quite low and covered with a layer of ice now, Livdahl said it doesn't take much in terms of a spring thaw or a summer rain to get the water moving and impacting the stream bank.

"A couple of inches of runoff and this turns into a pretty active stream," he explained at the site on Wednesday.

Several years ago, the church attempted to protect the stream bank along its property by installing fabric and covering it with rock to hold the soil in place. Over time, several of those rocks have ended up in the creek.

Livdahl said one of the potential solutions to reducing stream bank erosion could be to manipulate the stream by widening it and making it more into a ditch-type system. Doing that, however, would increase the velocity of water flow -- and that is something he said they don't want to do.

The best potential would be to slope back the existing stream banks and incorporating riprap, but even that has its challenges. Perhaps the greatest inhibitor is compromising a water retention pond the city constructed south of Bedford Industries. In essence, Livdahl said the stream bank couldn't be sloped to the desired width with the pond so close to the stream. Another obstacle is the church's parking lot, some of which would likely be lost by creating the necessary slope to the stream bank.

Livdahl told managers the city would likely not put the stream bank stabilization project on its list of things to do this year, but nevertheless he suggested submitting a letter to the city.

OOWD board member Rolf Mahlberg agreed, saying it would be a good idea for the city to have the project on its radar.

Other projects the district identified during the Tuesday meeting included seeking a permanent easement for a 12-acre wetland in Section 31, Elk Township; pursuing purchase of a 29-acre parcel in the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 15, Worthington Township for creation of a storm water pond; and gathering more information on the potential for an alum treatment on Lake Okabena.

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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