WORTHINGTON — Everything appears to be in place — except for thick ice — for southwest Minnesota’s commercial fisherman to conduct a wintertime seining project on Lake Okabena to rid the lake of its excessive carp population.

The Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District is financing the project.

Commercial fisherman Scott Des Lauriers will need a minimum ice thickness of 8 inches to take his equipment onto the Worthington lake to conduct seining, according to Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator Dan Livdahl. He discussed the project with managers during a Tuesday afternoon board meeting.

The process of seining will involve cutting holes through the ice and dropping nets in areas where carp are present. The watershed district has been tracking carp in the lake since last spring, when 15 carp were implanted with radio tracking devices. A second round, involving placing Passive Integrated Transponder tags into carp captured in the lake, was done in October.

“We would like to do some seining for carp removal when the conditions are ripe, before the aerators are turned on,” Livdahl said. “I’m hoping we’ll get some cold weather this week and next, and then go out with our radio telemetry equipment.”

The goal of the seining project is to remove 130,000 pounds of carp from Lake Okabena.

Lake Ocheda drops 6 inches

In the two and a half weeks since the coffer dam was removed at the Lake Ocheda dam, water levels have dropped half a foot, reported Livdahl. There’s still a 12.5-inch water depth flowing over the dam, and open water is allowing water to continue to flow.

“It is the lowest (lake) level it’s been all year,” Livdahl said. “I don’t know if it will be able to draw down the full 12 inches if ice shows up.”

Board chairman Rolf Mahlberg said tile lines continue to flow at a high rate into the lake, which is concerning as it may impact the effectiveness of a drawdown this winter. A management plan for the lake allows for additional wintertime drawdowns as needed to eradicate the lake’s high carp population.

With construction on the dam complete, Livdahl said the fish screens that will be used to keep carp from entering Lake Ocheda from the south will be installed by Ducks Unlimited personnel later this month.

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the 2020 budget at $365,650. This includes several revenue and expenditure items for 2019 events, such as anticipated revenues from FEMA for disaster assistance and the closing out of the Prairie View grant; and expenditures related to the Lake Ocheda dam modifications and carp management projects in Lake Okabena.

  • Authorized signing a wellhead protection grant agreement with the state of Minnesota to accept $294,000 toward the purchase of 56.68 acres in the city’s wellhead protection area. Nobles County Pheasants Forever is coordinating the property purchase, appraised at $465,000, with land seller Jesse Drost. The local Pheasants Forever chapter and Worthington Public Utilities have committed funds toward the purchase, and Livdahl said he anticipates the watershed district will also be asked to contribute. The closing date is scheduled for April 9.

  • Authorized Livdahl to purchase equipment needed to monitor dissolved oxygen levels in Lake Ocheda. The equipment will include a new ice auger that can be powered with a handheld drill. The drill will also be used to raise and lower the gates on the newly renovated Lake Ocheda dam.

  • Approved the hiring of Dennis Rick, certified public accountant, to complete the watershed district’s 2019 audit at a cost of $3,700.

  • Was updated on the Prairie View grant agreement, which was to be wrapped up Dec. 31. Livdahl said a final report must be submitted to the Board of Water and Soil Resources by Feb. 3. Once the final report is accepted, the district will receive the last remaining $42,800 in grant funds from the state.

  • Appointed Manager Casey Ingenthron as the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District’s representative to the Missouri River Watershed Partnership Joint Powers Organization.