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All clear: As presence of zebra mussels expands, Lake Okabena shows no sign of invasive species

WORTHINGTON -- Those who enjoy watersports on Worthington's Lake Okabena can celebrate a little victory after recent inspections of monitoring plates, docks and boat lifts removed from the lake this fall showed no presence of zebra mussels.

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A heavy coat of zebra mussels covers boat lifts that were removed last month from Green Lake near Spicer. Carolyn Lange/West Central Tribune

WORTHINGTON - Those who enjoy watersports on Worthington’s Lake Okabena can celebrate a little victory after recent inspections of monitoring plates, docks and boat lifts removed from the lake this fall showed no presence of zebra mussels.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, Administrator Dan Livdahl reported that of the nine steel plates attached to public docks last spring to monitor for zebra mussels, six were recovered - and none showed the presence of mussels.
Upon further inspection of docks, as well as all of the boat lifts placed in Sunset Park, Livdahl said there was no evidence of zebra mussels.
“That’s good news,” he told board members.
Livdahl worked closely with aquatic invasive species programming in Nobles County this year after the county received state funds to increase awareness to ward off the spread of invasive species. The county was given nearly $79,000 a year and a half ago to implement AIS education efforts. Livdahl said the county will receive another $50,000 to continue efforts next year.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, zebra mussels were confirmed in 112 Minnesota lakes, rivers and wetlands as of October, with 132 water bodies listed as infested because they are closely connected to a waterway where zebra mussels have been found.
The number of water bodies infested with zebra mussels represents less than 2 percent of Minnesota lakes.

Livdahl said the committee tasked with designating the AIS funds has not yet met to discuss how the money will be spent next year.
In other watershed business Tuesday, the board:

  • Discussed the state’s new buffer law and how it may impact incentive payments offered by the watershed district. There are still a lot of unknowns with the legislation. Board members were encouraged to attend a meeting organized by Nobles County at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the commissioner board room, during which attorney Kurt Deter, who specializes in drainage law, will provide an update and respond to questions.
  • Learned that Ducks Unlimited may complete its feasibility study on a potential drawdown of Lake Ocheda by late winter. 

“Until we get their work, it’s kind of on hold,” Livdahl said, adding that the best-case scenario would be a lake drawdown two years from now. By then, it’s hoped that the Lewis & Clark water pipeline will be closer to Worthington, and there will be fewer concerns about the impact a drawdown could have on the Worthington wellfield at Lake Bella. Before any drawdown occurs, Livdahl said there will need to be public meetings and hearings on the proposal. The reason for the lake drawdown is to eliminate the large carp population in the three basins of the lake, as well as to establish vegetation to improve water quality and clarity.

  • Discussed briefly the lands that are taxed in the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District northwest of Worthington that drain into Herlein-Boote slough.

Nearly four years ago, the slough’s gates leading to a diversion channel were closed to prevent the potential spread of Asian carp into Okabena Creek and ultimately Lake Okabena. Livdahl said the slough is no longer in the OOWD - and tax revenue from those lands should go instead to the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District, which will likely become the authority for the slough. For the taxing method to change, however, redistricting needs to be done. As of yet, the K-LR hasn’t petitioned for redistricting.

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  • Discussed, but took no action on, the watershed district’s 2016 budget.
  • Approved a permit for N&C Homes (Nicholas Hagen) to construct a new home in Woodland Court.
Related Topics: WATERSHED
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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