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Counties to decide East Fork Alliance

By Staff | Mar 15, 2008

Marv Hibben of the Lake Okamanpedan Improvement Association said his group wants to help improve the water quality of Tuttle Lake. Several groups met in Ceylon, Minn. to discuss the issue on Friday. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

CEYLON, Minn. — The Emmet County Board of Supervisors and county commissioners in Jackson and Martin counties in Minnesota will decide on whether to proceed with forming the East Fork Alliance, a group dedicated to protecting and preserving the east fork of the Upper Des Moines River.

The group is being formed “exclusively for scientific and educational purposes,” according to a draft copy of a joint powers agreement. Representatives of Soil and Water Conservation Districts from Iowa and Minnesota, county representatives from both sides of the border, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and others met to hammer out the agreement Friday at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Ceylon. A major objective is to allow Iowa and Minnesota to work together to protect the watershed.

Marv Hibben of the Lake Okamanpedan Improvement Association, the main group that’s responsible for bringing the parties together, said his group hopes to improve water quality of Tuttle Lake, known as Okamanpedan in Minnesota, and eventually to dredge the lake. Hibben said Louisiana consultants a few years ago said six to 12 feet of silt needed to be removed from the lake.

Hibben said a man named Brown was the first to settle the south side of the lake. He recounted that the Tuttle Lake School was west of the county park now on the lake’s southwest shore. Hibben said one night in 1900 the teacher would not let school children go home because of wolves.

Tuttle Lake was a wayside for the stagecoaches going from Mankato to Estherville and Spirit Lake, Hibben said.

Michelle Schaefers, district conservationist for NRCS in Estherville, said Minnesota and Iowa have been working together on watershed planning for the past four years. She said the biggest frustration is that there are two Environmental Protection Agency regions and two state government through which efforts must be coordinated.

Rich Perrine, water specialist with the Martin County Soil and Water Conservation District, said the initial project will focus on Emmet, Martin, and Jackson counties with six more counties along the east fork watershed joining later if they’re interested.

Much of the rest of the meeting was taken up by a question-and-answer period. Following are some of the points addressed:

n Schaefers said at one time a cost of 1 cent per acre of watershed was discussed as a membership fee. She said the Okamanpedan Improvement Association had raised money for improvements in the state park and, now those improvements are completed, the group wants to work toward watershed improvements, possibly contributing $5,000 a year.

n Steve Hopkins, coordinator of the Nonpoint Source Program for the Iowa DNR, suggested that a smaller group of three counties form first to focus attention on improvements to the lake. He further suggested that budgets be separated for the two states since they are in different EPA regions.

n Representatives of each county agreed to take the agreement to their respective county boards for approval before returning to vote on the joint powers agreement.