WORTHINGTON — Mother Nature appears to be cooperating with the continued drawdown of Lake Ocheda, south of Worthington.
During a meeting of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Tuesday afternoon, Administrator Dan Livdahl reported that the west basin of the lake has reached its drawdown elevation. Now, the hope is that evaporation can help take the water level even lower, and a hard winter freeze will achieve a massive fish kill on the three-basin lake.
This is the second consecutive year a drawdown has been attempted. A wet year in 2019 kept tiles flowing into the lake throughout the winter, keeping both water and oxygen levels high enough to be unsuccessful.
The drawdown, which began in mid-August, is prescribed in the lake’s management plan. Lake Ocheda has been on the state’s impaired waters list for a decade, with excessive levels of carp causing degradation of the water body. A successful drawdown and fish kill is hoped to encourage aquatic vegetative growth once again. Once carp levels are drastically reduced, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will stock the lake with predator fish to help keep the carp population under control.
Livdahl said there was no water flowing over the Ocheda dam on Monday, but a strong north wind could help to push more water out of the west basin.
“This is the best case scenario, what we’ve got right now,” Livdahl said during the Zoom meeting with his board of managers. “We’ve got the dry weather to hopefully get some evaporation and hopefully some cold weather this winter to get some freeze-outs.”
The deepest areas in both the east and west basins of the lake should now be at 2 to 2.5 feet of water, Livdahl said.
Manager Jay Milbrandt said he paddled out to the middle of the east basin last weekend and discovered water levels to be about 18 inches, with muck just as — if not — deeper. Carp can be seen schooling in several areas as the water levels recede.
Livdahl said beavers are busy on the south side of the Ocheda dam to back up the water, and he’s been removing beaver dams daily from the creek to keep water moving downstream. Both trapping and hunting are planned to try to remove the beaver.
Also on Tuesday, the board:
Approved the following permits: Johnson Builders & Realty to construct a second two-unit condo in the Cherrywood Addition, south of Olson Park; Arnold Waldner to construct a storage building on the former elevator site on Oxford Street, west of Marthaler Ford; Independent School District 518 to construct a new intermediate school along Crailsheim Road; Alan Oberloh to haul in more than 200 cubic yards of fill after completing demolition of the former sale barn on the north side of the Minnesota 60 beltline; and for Mark Thier, applicant for Todd Heironimus, to construct a depressed patio on property at 625 W. Shore Dr.
Approved 2020 filter strip incentive payments to property owners along protected water courses in the district. The payment rate will remain the same as in 2019, totaling nearly $37,000 for approximately 275 acres of filter strips.
Was told that staff from Wenck plan to be in Worthington next Tuesday to collect 20 carp from Lake Okabena and surgically implant radio tags into their body cavity. The devices will allow the district to track the carp and monitor their location. If the carp appear to school together this winter, a seining event will be attempted.
Livdahl said if the water temperatures are too warm, they may have to delay the surgical implants, as warmer water can lead to more infection and reduce surgery survival rates among the carp.
Learned that Jeff Meinders was hired to install a fish barrier on the outlet at the Minnesota West Regional Stormwater Pond later this fall. The custom-fabricated barrier is being constructed locally, and will keep carp from moving between the pond and Lake Okabena. The total project cost is $4,271.
Discussed inspecting the W-9 project northwest of Worthington since the parcel is mostly dry. Livdahl said the inspection is to look for any maintenance that may need to be done on the water storage system.