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OOWD Administrator Livdahl earns state award

Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl (center) accepted the Watershed District Employee of the Year award from Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke (left) during the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts’ annual conference Friday in Alexandria. OOWD Board Manager Casey Ingenthron joined Jaschke in congratulating Livdahl. (Photo courtesy Ann Wessel / BWSR)

WORTHINGTON — Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl was honored as the state’s 2018 Outstanding Watershed District Employee last Friday during the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts’ annual conference in Alexandria.

Livdahl has worked for the watershed district for 29 years, first providing technical services as part of his duties with the Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District, and then full-time since 2007, when he was hired as district administrator.

As the lone employee of the district, which is governed by a five-member board of managers, Livdahl is humbled by the award.

“There’s no way I could have done anything without partners,” Livdahl said Monday, giving a nod to the city of Worthington, the state’s Board of Water and Soil Resources and Department of Natural Resources, the local E.O. Olson Trust, Worthington Public Utilities and Nobles County Pheasants Forever — all of whom have worked closely with the watershed district on projects to improve water quality.

“To get credit (for the work) is nice, but I only deserve a small amount of credit,” he said. “I’ve had just a wonderful board to work for. They’re supportive and know what the mission is. It’s been a real pleasure to work with the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District board for the past 10 years.”

Livdahl was presented the award by Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Executive Director John Jaschke.

“Local partners are the driving force behind successful water quality improvement projects,” Jaschke said. “Dan Livdahl’s commitment to preserving our water resources is commendable, and we appreciate all he does to further conservation efforts in southwest Minnesota.”

Livdahl helped secure a $428,000 Clean Water Legacy Projects and Practices grant in 2016 to construct in-stream phosphorus treatment filtration structures on the former Prairie View Golf Links course, which is owned by the city of Worthington. He detailed the project to cohorts during BWSR’s Summer Tour in Nobles and Rock counties in mid-August.

“(The tour) made us visible in southwest Minnesota — to have them here and see that we are doing good things,” said Livdahl, adding that southwest Minnesota watersheds face different problems and have fewer financial resources than those further north.

In addition to the Prairie View project, Livdahl guided the watershed’s board of managers through construction of the W-9 project north of Prairie View, with collaboration from the city of Worthington and the Galen Gordon family.

“That was kind of the first large sedimentation basin we had protecting Lake Okabena,” Livdahl said. “It’s done a good job removing sediment, but not real good at removing nutrients, which is why we moved downstream to Prairie View.”

For the past 15 years, the district has discussed a management plan for Lake Ocheda, south of Worthington. The three-basin shallow lake was listed as an impaired water body in 2010, and is heavily infested with carp. The district plans to begin a project in 2019 that includes reconstructing the Lake Ocheda dam with a fish barrier and doing a lake drawdown in early fall to force a fish kill with hopes of spurring aquatic vegetative growth.

“Lake Ocheda is going to be something that we’ll have to actively manage,” Livdahl said. “We’ll have to be watching carp populations and how our structures are working. Any management we do includes all of the citizens that have a stake in what happens to Lake Ocheda.”

Lake Bella, at the southerly end of the watershed district, also falls under Livdahl’s management responsibilities. Several years ago, the Lake Bella Park was seeded to native prairie species to provide dual benefit to wildlife and filter runoff before it reaches the lake.

With all that has been accomplished, Livdahl still has a lengthy list of things to do — including addressing the carp population in Worthington’s Lake Okabena and Sunset Bay next year. The district hopes to collaborate with the city of Worthington, with funds from the E.O. Olson Trust, to radio-tag carp to determine where they are reproducing in the lake, and to also do some seining.

“We need to continue taking action as needed to keep carp down,” Livdahl said. “We hope that will lead to clearer water in the lake — fewer nutrients and less sediment in the water later in the season.”

In addition to his duties with the OOWD, Livdahl is the lead member and coordinator of the Missouri River Watershed One Watershed, One Plan planning effort, which includes six counties and two watershed districts in southwest Minnesota. He also serves as chairman of the Prairie Ecology Bus Center board of directors.