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Watershed district sinks idea to install data buoy

WORTHINGTON -- After a few months of discussing the idea, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District's board of managers decided Tuesday not to pursue the purchase of a data buoy for Lake Okabena.

WORTHINGTON - After a few months of discussing the idea, the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District’s board of managers decided Tuesday not to pursue the purchase of a data buoy for Lake Okabena.

The decision was made to drop the idea after Manager Rolf Mahlberg visited with individuals at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory in Spirit Lake, Iowa, to learn more about the data buoy installed in West Lake Okoboji in the spring of 2015.

“I thought there would be enthusiasm and excitement on behalf of the buoy,” Mahlberg said, but that wasn’t the case. The lab has to hire people to install the buoy each spring and remove it from the lake each fall, and the buoy was struck by a boat once, causing approximately $4,000 in damage to the buoy. Mahlberg also said the buoy was covered in zebra mussels when it was pulled from the lake.

“There is a steep learning curve on the software,” Mahlberg reported. “(The buoy) has to be calibrated monthly.”

Noting that awareness was one of the biggest benefits of the scientific research buoy in the Iowa lake (the data is used by a trio of Iowa universities), Mahlberg said the lack of support for the buoy led to his decision to not support the purchase of one for Lake Okabena.

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While the data collection tool is off the table, OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl said the district collects lake water samples monthly, and he will continue to do so for the state and for other reasons. The watershed district has 30 years of data on water quality, with monthly data records dating back 16 or 17 years.

In other business, the board:

  • Discussed a plan to host a series of public meetings on the Lake Ocheda Enhancement Project.

The project involves a winter drawdown of Lake Ocheda to generate a fish kill and promote vegetative growth in the lake. The ultimate goal of the work is to improve water quality in the impaired lake. Tentative plans are to have these public meetings in January, March and August, though no dates have been set.
Livdahl said he also plans to establish a web page or Facebook page to provide more information about the project.

“Our goal is, a year from now, we’ll have the DNR hearing on the plan, where it will either be approved or denied,” Livdahl said. “Before that, we need to do some public outreach.”

  • Discussed the $180,000 One Watershed, One Plan grant received to write the plan for the Missouri River Watershed, which includes portions of Jackson, Lincoln, Murray, Nobles and Pipestone counties and all of Rock County.

Livdahl said he met with individuals from the state Tuesday to learn more about the plan. A consultant will write the plan, followed by a local review process and gathering of input. The plan, he said, will have counties working together toward common goals.
“The highest priority items will be funded first,” Livdahl said. “We can continue to use our levy, but our plan has to justify our levy. We’ll still levy for projects specific to this watershed.”

  • Approved erosion control permits for the Lewis & Clark waterline to be constructed up to Worthington’s water treatment plant; for Marthaler Ford, 611 Oxford St., during a resurfacing project on the car lot as well as during a building expansion on the west side of the existing dealership and the addition of another lot; for South Lake Development (Allen Drost) to construct new condominiums on property along First Avenue Southwest, south and west of Prairie Elementary; for New Vision Cooperative, 38438 210th St., to construct a truck storage building on an existing gravel parking lot; for Newport Laboratories, 2020 Circle Drive, to build an addition onto their lab; and for Merck, 275 S. Lake St., to complete an expansion project with additional driveway and storm sewer installation.

“We have a lot of construction going on now, which is good for the Worthington community,” Livdahl said.

  • Discussed road maintenance inside Bella Park. The dirt road that extends from the south shelter to the north shelter is in poor condition and is unsafe for vehicle traffic. As a result, vehicles are making new paths around the dangerous ruts, and that is concerning because of the fire hazard in driving through the tall grasses.

A recommendation was made to block the path between the two shelters to vehicle traffic. Access to both shelters is still available by following the main road into the park and taking one of the two gravel roads that lead to the west.

  • Learned that Terry Neugebauer will farm the watershed district’s 15-acre parcel known as the St. John’s property in 2017, at a rate of $150 per acre.

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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