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Lake Okabena Scheduled For Survey

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Just like the many other drought stricken cities across the Midwest, Worthington has been keeping an eye on its water consumption.

With that in mind, the city is being proactive by finding other ways to conserve water.

As winter draws closer and closer, the waters of Whiskey Ditch in Worthington are freezing bringing it to a stand still.

But when the ice thaws out, all the water will make its way to Lake Okabena, and eventually the city’s primary water source of Lake Bella south of town.

Needless to say, it’s important to keep an eye on these waters, so for the first time in several years; Lake Okabena will undergo surveying to analyze how it has changed over the years.

“Well, what we’re looking for is the bottom, the depth of the bottom, or the elevation of the bottom, however you want to look at it, and we’re just tracking that over time,” says Dwayne Haffield, city engineer in Worthington.

So what makes it change? Well, as rainwater flows down the hills of these farms; the dirt that is eroded little by little eventually flows through these streams and into these lakes. The more dirt in the lake, the less water it can hold; and that’s not the only concern.

“It also carries nutrients, phosphorus, other primary concerns. That’s what algae is looking for, a primary nutrient to go form the algae blooms,” says Haffield.

In an effort to avoid any extra harm to the lakes, the city along with the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District has been offering monetary incentives to farmers along these streams, asking them to trim their fields away from the waters.

“Well, the idea is to provide a buffer from the farming activities and the open waters and the waterway,” says Haffield.  

Thanks to an increase in crop values, those incentives have gone up from $100 to $150 an acre. Meanwhile downstream, the main focus of the surveys will be on Lake Okabena.  

“We wouldn’t necessarily gain any new insight into what the contribution would be through farming practices. It would just be specific to our lake,” says Haffield.

This data will give the city and watershed district an idea of how much of the lake may need to be dredged in order to hold more water and continue to benefit Worthington and the surrounding communities.

Once the results are in, the board members will then be faced with possible budget challenges associated with dredging the lake. 
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