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Okabena-Ocheda Watershed to seek $1.3 million grant for pond project on District 518 land

“I’m not sure what our chances of getting a grant our first year are. We’re in competition with everybody else.”

The sun shines on Lake Okabena on Monday, June 27, 2022.
The sun shines on Lake Okabena on Monday, June 27, 2022.
Kari Lucin / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed will pursue a grant to pay for a large pond on District 518 land near the Intermediate School that would prevent approximately 300 pounds of phosphorus and even more sediment from reaching Lake Okabena annually.

The project has a tentative cost estimate of $1.3 million, and if the watershed receives a grant it would need to come up with $324,000 locally.

“I’m not sure what our chances of getting a grant our first year are,” said Watershed Administrator Dan Livdahl at the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed Board of Managers meeting Tuesday. “We’re in competition with everybody else.”

The application deadline is Aug. 22.

Rolf Mahlberg, president of the watershed board, said that most likely, if the grant request is denied, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources grant team will let the watershed know whether it should tweak a few things in its application in order to receive a higher score in another round of grant applications or if the project would be unlikely to ever be funded.

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“It all depends on who you’re competing against,” Mahlberg said.

He said he was thankful for the support of the District 518 Board of Education, which had a “lengthy dialogue” with watershed representatives at its July 19 meeting, and voted 3-2 to go forward with the pond.

As proposed at that meeting, the pond would encompass 14.96 acres, and the school board requested that the watershed plan include reshaping the waterway up to the north edge of the school’s property line, rather than simply building a pond on the southern portion of the property.

At that point, plans remained somewhat indefinite, as the watershed did not want to spend money on specific plans without the school board’s OK.

In other news Tuesday, the watershed board:

  • Received an update on Carp Solutions’ efforts to estimate the carp population in Lake Okabena, and heard that there may be fewer carp in the lake than previously believed. The official report, with a more complete statistical analysis and explanation, is not yet available.
  • Gave permission to Pheasants Forever to plant pollinator-friendly plants on an acre of land owned by the watershed.
  • Heard that there was a fish kill along the Lake Bella spillway, and that a conservationist will take samples of the fish, some of which appear to be invasive carp species.
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A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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