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Scott Rall: A day to do what's right

BY SCOTT RALL The Globe outdoors columnist I was going to share some dog and hunting experience from my trip last weekend, but that will have to wait because there is an event coming up that is far more important. For the past 15 years I have bee...

BY SCOTT RALL

The Globe outdoors columnist

I was going to share some dog and hunting experience from my trip last weekend, but that will have to wait because there is an event coming up that is far more important.

For the past 15 years I have been reading Watershed meeting minutes and other records about lake Ocheda.  It is a large shallow lake made up of three distinct basins located a few miles south of Worthington. Most of the lake is less than four feet deep and when water levels are low, boating is not an option in many places.  

All of the research that I have read talks about how bad the water quality in the lake has been for the past six decades.  That is over 60 years.

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The water clarity is less than 6 inches almost all of the time. Last winter when I tried to go fishing there, you could not see your minnow even a few inches under water, and normally in the winter the water clears up.  

This is not the case with Lake Ocheda.  The water is loaded with many different pollutants and is very high in nutrients that cause the algae to grow.

All of these issues make the lake unpleasant to swim and recreate in most of the year, and downright dangerous at other times.  The fish caught in this lake have a consummation advisory which means you should not eat too many of them in a short period of time.

I have sat in so many meetings where they talked about making the water quality in Lake Ocheda better.  We talked and talked and talked and in the end, nothing happened.

One of the main reasons the water is in such poor condition is a man-made problem.  Way back when, they stocked the common carp in just a few area lakes for what was going to be the next greatest game fish for fishermen to catch.  These fish then made their way into every creek, stream, river and lake in most of North America where they can exist.

Like many other human introductions, the efforts not only failed but created some horrific results to the negative. The common carp populations exploded and now there are estimated to be 600 pounds of carp per acre in Lake Ocheda.  

These fish stir up the bottom and as a result the water clarity is very poor and many other negative conditions are created. Lake Ocheda is severely impaired by any standard and needs to be cleaned up.

For the first time in 60 years there is now a plan underway to make the water in Lake Ocheda better. This planning process has been very active for the past five years and the plan being brought forth is the cumulation of all of those efforts. The efforts have now reached their day of decision.

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The day of decision will be on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Hickory Lodge in Worthington. After nine riparian landowner meetings, three public input meetings and countless person-to-person interactions by me and other members of the Okabena-Ocheda watershed board and their advisory committee, the public now gets to stand up and tell the decision makers whether they support the plan or oppose it.

The plan being presented takes into account the wants and needs of riparian landowners and is the least dramatic action possible that has any chance of being successful. No lesser options can be successful.

The plan is to draw down lake Ocheda over the period of one winter.  The drawdown will start on Aug. 1 and the lake will fill normally to the same level as before by about mid-June of the following year under normal conditions. The goal is to kill all of the fish.

The goal is unlikely to be achieved. The plan will kill enough carp to get them to a population level that no longer creates the bad conditions that currently exist.  

There is no way to kill all of the carp.  Killing most of them will get the desired result.  The lake will then be re-stocked with game fish to help keep the carp from coming back to problematic levels.

The meeting will give a summary of the plan and then allow attendees to give two minutes of testimony as to whether they support or oppose the plan.

I find it hard to understand how anyone could or would be against cleaning up the water. The lake is broken. It needs to be fixed and this plan can fix it.  

Please attend this important meeting and tell those in charge that you want clean water not only in Lake Ocheda but in every lake in Minnesota. Written comments will also be included until Nov. 1 and they can be mailed to the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed at P.O Box 114, Worthington, MN, 56187.  

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Now is the time to make it happen.  Sixty years of talking, five years of action and one big day of decision. Decisions are made by the people who show up. Be one of those people.

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Thursday night high school sports roundup:
The Worthington Trojans girls’ and boy’s hockey teams both played home games on Thursday night. The girls’ team celebrated Senior Night and played the non-conference Austin Packers. Austin beat Worthington 6-1.
Trailing at halftime, the Worthington High School girls basketball team outscored Albert Lea 49-27 in the second half Thursday night in Worthington
The Minnesota West men's basketball team was defeated by conference opponent Rochester Wednesday night. Bie Ruei had a big night with 26 points and four assists.