Nobles SWCD receives $26,230 grant for water sampling on local lakes, streams

Testing will be done May through September.

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Lake Ocheda is shown looking east in this 2017 Globe file photo.
(Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)
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WORTHINGTON — The Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District was recently awarded a $26,230 Surface Water Assessment Grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to test three lakes this summer, as well as areas on three streams within Nobles County during the next two summers.

The grant will fund water sampling and testing, according to Nobles SWCD Manager John Shea. The samples will be studied for total suspended solids, phosphorus, chloride, E. coli, water hardness, temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen. Secchi disk readings will also be taken to monitor water clarity, and Shea said they will also take notes on recreational suitability of the lakes and streams while collecting samples.

The trio of lakes to be tested include Lake Okabena in Worthington; the west basin of Lake Ocheda, south of Worthington; and Indian Lake, west of the community of Round Lake. Stream testing will be done in two spots on the Little Rock River, two spots on Kanaranzi Creek and one location on the Ocheyedan River, which flows between Lake Ocheda and Lake Bella.

Shea said those lakes and streams were selected because the MPCA already has a history on those sites. He’s hopeful that the new samples will show that some of the work being done by the SWCD and local watersheds is helping to improve water quality.

Water sampling is slated to begin in May, with the streams sampled once in May, three times per month in June, July and August, and once in September. The lakes will be sampled once per month, May through September. Minnesota Valley Testing Laboratories in Mankato will analyze the water samples.


District technician Scott Runck will be sampling the streams, and Shea had planned to do the lake samples, although that may change.

“I hope we find that, if there are issues, we can address them,” Shea said. “And I hope that nothing has dramatically jumped up in readings since the last time we’ve done this.”

It’s been seven years since the Nobles SWCD has done water sampling, though the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District has done testing on both Lake Okabena and Ocheda since then.

Shea to leave Nobles SWCD

After a decade with the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District — the last seven years as its manager — Shea will be leaving the Worthington office in early May for a new job with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

He will be one of three board conservationists that will work in a hybrid model with three days in Marshall and two days working from home. His family plans to remain in Worthington.

“I will be working with SWCD staff and watershed district staff on grants that come through BWSR,” Shea said. “I will be doing grant tracking for the SWCDs and, if there are any changes that come up and they need to change their grant application, they will go through the board conservationist.”

Shea’s role will be to ensure the funds awarded to SWCDs and watershed districts are used appropriately.

His work will be overseen by BWSR’s Southern Region Manager, Ed Lenz, who had actually served as the Nobles SWCD Manager when Shea was hired as a technician.


Shea will not be working with Nobles SWCD — or any of the southern tier of counties within the region — in his new role, which begins May 11.

“It’s a new challenge,” Shea said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here, and I’ll be one month short of 10 years when I quit.

“It’s been great working with the landowners; and I’ve really enjoyed the water planning and teamwork — the collaborations with other counties,” Shea said.

The Nobles SWCD position was posted in early April, but Shea said they have yet to receive any applications for the job. The application process closes next Friday.

“We’re looking at anybody with any experience in conservation, and preferably a four-year, but a two-year degree would be looked at also,” Shea added.

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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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