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Watershed District hopes to partner with ISD 518 on water quality project

Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District managers authorize feasibility study for property along Crailsheim Road.

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The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District is interested in working with Independent School District 518 on potential water quality improvement projects on the district's property along North Crailsheim Drive. Work has been progressing at the site as a new intermediate school is under construction. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Managers of the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District on Tuesday authorized spending $53,000 for the first stage of a feasibility study examining the potential for water quality improvement projects on property owned by Independent School District 518 along Crailsheim Road.

The study will be conducted by Houston Engineering, a Fargo, North Dakota-based firm with offices in Minnesota and South Dakota that specializes in water resources including drainage and surface water modeling.

“They’d look at the site and propose what might work there, based on best science, using some of the work we’ve already done,” OOWD Administrator Dan Livdahl explained during the board of managers meeting. The $53,000 cost would include the phase one feasibility study at $43,000, as well as $10,000 for communication between the watershed district and engineers hired by the school district to ensure a project that would fit with the school district’s plans.

Livdahl said while the study is expensive, it’s the step the watershed district needs to take if it wants to try to qualify for grant funding next summer.

“Unless you’re prepared, you’re not going to get a grant,” Livdahl said, reminding managers that the city of Worthington spent about $65,000 on studies before it was able to get a grant for water quality improvements on the Prairie View property.


“I see this as one of the critical projects for us,” said Manager Jay Milbrandt. “This seems like the last big opportunity — especially at the top of the watershed.”

Milbrandt said he believes this summer’s improved water quality in Lake Okabena was a direct result of the work done on the Prairie View property.

Board President Rolf Mahlberg also spoke in favor of working with the school district to implement water quality projects on the school’s property.

“I think that parcel is something we really need to have a focus on,” Mahlberg said. “You can see that’s a really viable, important piece in the watershed as water makes its trek into the lake.”

Livdahl said it’s important for the watershed district to have basic information before approaching the ISD 518 Board of Education.

“How much would it cost and what would it look like — that’s really what we’re asking for,” he said. “The school district isn’t going to commit until they know what they’re committing to, and we’re not going to commit until we know we can afford to do it.”

It’s anticipated the feasibility study will begin in early 2021.

In other business, the board:


  • Completed a performance evaluation of Livdahl as the watershed’s administrator. Following the review, a 3% salary increase was approved, for a 2021 salary of $62,580. In addition, health insurance and a $75 per month contribution to Livdahl’s health savings account was approved.

  • Was updated on the Lake Ocheda drawdown efforts. Livdahl reported that a small amount of water continues to flow over the dam on the lake’s west basin.

“It’s looking good,” he said. “We’re right where we need to be, going into winter.”

  • Discussed the potential for future improvements on the Prairie View site. Milbrandt said there doesn’t appear to be state interest in developing the site as a state or regional park, and he wondered if there was potential for the watershed district to partner with the city of Worthington to do some projects, such as wetland seedings and signage.

Livdahl said he’d like to get the Boy Scouts involved in the conversation, since that organization is using the site. He suggested the watershed district first meet with the city of Worthington’s parks department. Milbrandt was asked to reach out to the city’s public works director this winter about the property.

  • Delayed a vote on the proposed 2021 budget until Livdahl can gather more accurate costs for some of the possible expenditures for the year, including data acquisition, carp management and the Lake Ocheda drawdown.

  • Adopted the current slate of officers to continue in those roles in 2021. Mahlberg will continue as president of the watershed board of managers, while Casey Ingenthron is vice president, Jeff Rogers is secretary and Milbrandt is treasurer.

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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