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Watershed District to assess carp populations in Lake Okabena

WORTHINGTON -- The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District's board of managers voted Tuesday to pursue a trio of assessments on Lake Okabena as it continues its quest to improve the health of Worthington's lake.

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WORTHINGTON - The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District’s board of managers voted Tuesday to pursue a trio of assessments on Lake Okabena as it continues its quest to improve the health of Worthington’s lake.

The three studies include an assessment of Worthington’s urban best management practices (BMPs), an evaluation of Lake Okabena’s carp population and an evaluation of carp management strategies. All of the work will be funded through the watershed district’s survey and data acquisition account, which was established with a special $50,000 levy in 2017.

Wenck Associates compiled the list of tasks at the OOWD’s request. The ultimate goal is to reduce the Total Maximum Daily Load in Lake Okabena and improve water quality.

The urban BMP assessment, estimated at $14,500, will use the watershed district’s existing diagnostic information to site and assess potential BMPs throughout the city of Worthington. The OOWD has already identified potential locations for stormwater projects, including the District 518 land recently purchased along Crailsheim Drive, Sunset Park, Slater Park, other city parks surrounding the lake and city-owned stormwater ponds.

Lake Okabena is on the state’s impaired waters list, and while projects have been implemented to reduce the amount of phosphorus and sediment reaching the lake - the Prairie View project is the latest to address nutrient loading - more work is needed.

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“It will be hard to meet the TMDL without doing something to the lake bottom eventually,” Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl said.

Alum treatments could be used, but are extremely costly. Reducing the carp population could also improve lake health.

“I get a lot of questions annually about the carp populations in Okabena,” Livdahl said, noting that residents have told him the carp population is high - even though netting results from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources haven’t shown high populations of the rough fish in the lake. “You have to get a certain number per acre before they’re considered to have an effect on water quality.”

Evaluating the carp population in the lake will cost an estimated $4,500, with evaluation of carp management strategies estimated at $2,500. Once the work is done, it will give the watershed district options for doing potential carp exclusion/barrier systems or doing targeted removals or harvesting of carp. That information could then be used to try to acquire grant funding for projects, Livdahl said.

In other business, the board:

  • Certified the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District’s 2018 levy at $253,000.
  • Received an update on the progress of work on the former Prairie View Golf Links project. The project includes the expansion of existing ponds on the site, as well as the addition of an iron sand filter - all aimed at reducing the amount of phosphorus and sediment from water before it flows into Lake Okabena.

Despite a few rain delays, Livdahl said the work is progressing well. The targeted completion date for the work is Sept. 15.
Manager Jay Milbrandt said the algae blooms on Lake Okabena were fewer and shorter in duration this year. He’s excited to see what the Prairie View project will do to help improve the health of the lake.

  • Continued discussion on a potential land swap and ownership proposal with the city of Worthington for the 124-acre Prairie View Golf Links property. Currently, the watershed district has a permanent easement on 41.3 acres of the site, which encompasses the storage ponds and water filtering project on the southern end of the former golf course. Getting an easement on the entire parcel would protect the property from any future development or production agriculture, Livdahl said.

The OOWD owns a 50-acre parcel along U.S. 59/Minnesota 60 on Worthington’s south side that could be offered to the city as part of a land swap.
Milbrandt said the watershed district needs to be clear about its expectations for the Prairie View land and how it would be used.

Manager Rolf Mahlberg said it was in the board’s best interest to seed the Prairie View land into native grasses and promote recreational use on the property.

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Livdahl was directed to set up a meeting with the Worthington City Council to further discuss the idea.

  • Announced the third and final public meeting on the Lake Ocheda enhancement plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Hickory Lodge meeting room, 2015 N. Humiston Ave., Worthington. The two significant changes made to the plan since the first two public hearings include moving the drawdown up to Aug. 1, 2018, instead of Sept. 1, and removing Ducks Unlimited from the advisory group. Two citizen members have been appointed instead.
  • Learned the public hearing with the Department of Natural Resources Commissioner/staff regarding the Lake Ocheda enhancement plan will be Oct. 10 at the Hickory Lodge meeting room. A time has not yet been set.
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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