WORTHINGTON — In a little more than two weeks the first of the stop logs will be removed from the Lake Ocheda dam to begin a drawdown of the three-basin lake south of Worthington.

The goal is to draw the lake down about one- to one-and-a-half feet to begin renovation of the existing dam and construction of a fish barrier.

Land Pride Construction LLC of Paynesville was awarded the contract to do the work at a cost of $273,711. The company anticipates work on the structure will begin around the last week of September.

Construction is estimated to take about a month, according to Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl.

Livdahl told his board of managers during a meeting Tuesday that boards will be removed from the dam a single bay at a time, starting on Aug. 26. There are 10 bays in the dam, and downstream flow and any rain events will determine how quickly the boards are removed from each bay.

“We don’t want to cause flooding downstream,” Livdahl said.

Once the work to the dam is completed, plans include the removal of silt from the channel leading to the dam to further promote a lake drawdown to a maximum depth of 2.5 feet. The drawdown will be done in hopes of freezing out the existing fish population this winter, including an excessive amount of carp.

Because the drawdown is so dependent on Mother Nature — reduced rainstorms and a hard freeze are needed — there's no guarantee the drawdown will be successful.

“We’re hoping for a cold winter and some snow to freeze it to the bottom and get oxygen levels low enough to get rid of the carp,” Livdahl said.

If the drawdown is a success, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will restock the lake, and the new fish barrier should prevent rough fish from swimming into Lake Ocheda from downstream waters — including Peterson Slough, the Ocheyedan River and Lake Bella — in the future.

An adaptive management team will be established to continue monitoring Lake Ocheda. Watershed board chairman Rolf Mahlberg will represent the managers on that team, and two members of the public — preferably individuals who either live along the lake or own property around it — will be asked to serve.

Litigation discussed on Prairie View project

Watershed managers on Tuesday moved to establish a committee to meet with attorney Jeff Flynn regarding the Prairie View project and who must bear the cost of making repairs to the twice-failed structure.

Manager Jay Milbrandt encouraged the board to have a conversation with Flynn about the watershed district’s rights, responsibilities and position on the failed project.

“If there was a design defect, whoever caused the defect — whether it’s the engineer or the Flexamat vendor or installer — they carry insurance for this purpose,” Milbrandt said. “The way you trigger insurance is you need to initiate a claim.

“My sense is this may be a process we need to follow if we want to have one of the parties involved solve this,” he added. “I don’t like rushing to sue somebody, but it may be a necessary step to start the process to recover insurance money from someone else.”

Managers Milbrandt, Casey Ingenthron and Administrator Livdahl will meet with the attorney to explore legal options. At that time, they will also have the attorney weigh in on a release from liability form received by Wenck Engineering, who designed the filters for the Prairie View project.

The filters were originally constructed with the wrong material, and have since been rebuilt to correct specifications. Wenck paid Duininck Inc. for those repairs, which amounted to $86,580.

In other action, the board:

  • Rejected the lone bid received for the repairs to the Prairie View spillway. At $291,500, the bid exceeded the engineer’s estimate by more than 30%.

“You have no choice except to reject that bid,” said Livdahl. The district had wanted the work done yet this year.

  • Approved a draft of the 2020 budget to be printed as a public notice in advance of a Sept. 2 public hearing. The budget includes a proposed district levy of $253,000 — $250,000 for the general levy, and $3,000 levied for insurance — and a total budget of $261,850.

  • Learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has $12,000 for the watershed district to replace riprap around the pool below the Lake Bella dam. Damage was caused to the existing bank by flood waters this spring.

  • Approved an erosion and sediment control permit for Todd Schwebach during construction of a new home on Dayton Drive; and stormwater pollution prevention permits for Minnesota Energy Resources during construction of a new natural gas pipeline in Lorain Township and the city of Worthington during construction of a new movie theater on Darling Drive.

  • Accepted the 2018 audit report, noting that the auditor hired by the district failed to complete the report before the deadline, resulting in a fine issued by the state.