WORTHINGTON — With ice more than 10 inches thick on Lake Okabena and radio-tagged carp apparently congregating in two of its deeper spots, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl told board managers in a meeting Tuesday that plans are still in place for a winter-time carp seining event on the Worthington lake.

Livdahl reported that he found 16 of the 20 newly tagged carp in two different locations in the western part of the lake during his last outing.

“It may be where the carp were last year and we couldn’t find them because of the weaker signals,” Livdahl said.

A commercial fisherman will conduct the seining effort, but thicker ice is needed for him to bring his tractor and equipment onto the lake.

“I think we really need to push him to do it this year,” said Manager Jay Milbrandt. “We didn’t get it done last year. Then we had to retag (more carp) this year. If it doesn’t happen this year, I’d be discouraged continuing to support putting money into (the project).”

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Last winter, seining efforts were called off because of poor ice conditions and the inability to find congregating carp.

Livdahl said he would remain in contact with the commercial fisherman with the hope of scheduling the seining as soon as it is safe to do so.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved the 2021 watershed district budget, with budgeted revenues estimated at $323,100 and expenditures estimated at $383,600. The district has approximately $400,000 in reserves, which can be drawn upon as needed to balance the budget.

Livdahl reported numerous unknowns with the budget, such as potential revenues from the city and the E.O. Olson Trust to help fund projects, costs for Lake Okabena and Lake Ocheda carp management, and potential projects with Independent School District 518 on its Crailsheim Road property and the city of Worthington on improvements at Prairie View.

Livdahl also told the board he’d like to build some type of temporary or permanent barriers between Lake Okabena and Sunset Bay this year to help control the carp population, and said the county has approximately $80,000 in Aquatic Invasive Species revenue from the state that may be used to fund the barriers.

  • Approved $600 cost-share payments to Todd Hieronimus and Mark Woitalewicz for well-sealing projects.

  • Learned that Lake Ocheda has an ice thickness of between seven and 11 inches, depending on the location, and about 18 inches of water under the ice on the east basin. Livdahl reported that dissolved oxygen levels are also high, which does not bode well for a major fish kill. He said greater ice thickness as well as snow cover is needed yet this winter for success with the drawdown effort.

Manager Rolf Mahlberg reported that his family has drilled approximately 30 holes on the west basin and hadn’t had a single bite on the live bait.

“We’ve been unable to locate any fish,” he added.

  • Discussed the use of the rustic Lake Bella Park trails, including snowshoeing activities and cross-country skiing being enjoyed by visitors to the park.

“The trails are getting a lot of use,” reported Livdahl. “The fact that snow hasn’t blocked the road has allowed people to go out there and use it.”

Milbrandt asked if there would be interest in installing trail signage or maps in the park and doing some interpretive signs about the native grass seeding that has taken place there. Based on previous activity, Mahlberg discouraged additional signage.

“Our sign out there has done a really good job of sustaining substantial shotgun blasts,” Mahlberg said. “For some unknown reason, they make exceptional targets.”

He also said he’s been encouraged by the work already done in Bella Park, noting that steps taken in the past five years have encouraged more public use of the property than what had been done in the previous 30 years.

Livdahl suggested money be better spent on making the trails smoother. That request has been made to him numerous times, he noted. Managers will further consider ideas for the park.

  • Discussed the district’s 2021 plan, including the potential to do some permanent native seeding at Prairie View. Livdahl said the city currently has no plans for the park after it was twice denied a state grant to develop the land into a regional park. However, Public Works Director Todd Wietzema said some help with managing vegetation could be used.

“Last year the thistles took over,” Livdahl said. “The golf course grasses are drying, and thistles took over in the bare spots.”

He said native prairie seeds and land prep could cost up to $500 per acre.

Managers voiced support for controlling thistles on the site, and they will likely act on the matter at their February meeting.

“That area isn’t going to get better without positive seeding,” Mahlberg said.