Summary of accomplishments:
- Moved outfall to east side of Cell 4
- Fluid mud to 5” below marsh level (-5 ML) throughout Cell 4; delta to +2 ML
- Total time pumped directly into Cell 4: 40 hours
- Total dredging time at study cells: 113 hours
Impediments: low water; thunderstorms; Javeler took pump
Tuesday, January 24
Karen Westphal (I) brought the Avocet down, stopped by Stine’s for needed tools and bolts and made it to the camp by 8:30. It was a cool, bumpy ride across Vermilion Bay with occasional drizzles.
Timmy Vincent and I were at the dredge by 9:30, and had it pushed into place in the canal and ready to dredge by 10:00. Timmy left me to get started and took the flat boat to shore.
While trying to pull up the long bamboo pole that marked our last position, I knocked one of the solar lights off the dredge and watched with dismay as it blew bubbles and sank just out of reach. I’m sure we will see it again – stuck in the bottom of the pump! And of course, I dropped the pole as well, and watched as the wind and tide floated it serenely to the far reaches of the canal. Such is life aboard a floating work platform!
While I dredged, Timmy was in the pond to close off Cell 4 with a couple bundles of reeds. We had left a gap in the plywood wall between Cell 4 and the northern cells to allow the water to drain as we filled in the deeper parts of Cell 4, but it was now time to raise the water level and filter the overflow. By the time he got the reeds tied in place, rain was rolling in. We continued dredging as the rain ran off of our overhead canopy until we heard thunder rolling toward us, then quickly secured the dredge and ran for the camp.
At the camp, we watched the weather from the windows and by radar as the area received some much needed rain. At 1:30, we were once again on the dredge. Timmy moved the anchor back again so we could continue our backward dredging waltz, but within 30 minutes, the new block on the right traveling winch popped loose again. We had replaced the old, rusted, swivel block with a stainless-steel, fixed block, but the connectors I had brought would not fit. We had tried holding it on by a large cable tie and then by some small plastic-coated cable I had on hand. Neither worked when trying to pull the dredge sideways. Timmy headed back to camp and brought back a length of stainless steel cable which should do the trick. We dredged for another 40 minutes to finish that dredge line and marked it with a pole.
We have been waiting for the water level to come up in the pond so that we can move the pontoon that holds the outfall-end of the dredge hose. The southerly wind allowed the water level to rise in the pond to 1 inch below marsh level (-1 ML). The idea to fill in the deepest part of Cell 4 near the outer containment seems to have worked quite well, and the delta created here is above marsh level with coarser material, creating an earthen dam to assist with containment.
The pontoon is tied off in two places by ropes on the south side of Cell 4, and the only way to get to it, or to move it, is by airboat. Timmy maneuvered the airboat around to the pond side of containment 4c where I could step out into the marsh. I made my way to the first rope to untie it from one of the posts supporting the containment wall. The portion of the rope across to the pontoon was buried in 18 inches of mud and had to be extracted. My hands were covered in slimy mud with nowhere to clean them off.
I gathered the loose end of the rope and threw it across the waterway to the marsh beyond, then we brought the airboat back around. I retrieved the first rope while Timmy untied the other rope, and we both pulled the pontoon away from the delta over the slippery mud. However, it proved to be too difficult to pull by hand when the attached length of hose was being pulled against soft mud, so Timmy tied it to the airboat. Very gently, he pulled it around the edge of the marsh and around marker poles, while I walked the shore with the other rope.
“Walk” is not something I do in our thick Spartina patens marsh. You can’t walk “through” the marshhay cordgrass because it is too thick and matted, and if you could, the marsh platform (the ground under the grass where the roots are) is riddled with holes and channels that you can’t see until you step through them. You have to step on top of the bent over grass. I’m short, the marsh is thick and tall, and I more or less high-step to get on top of the cushy marsh mat, try to balance, fall over, climb up, take a few steps, fall sideways, get up, step over and around, trip onto my face, push up, step around, etc. It’s a good thing the grass is like a big mattress! Another good thing about the tall grass is that it is easy to squat or lay down to shelter from the airboat blast!
The force of the mud playing tug-a-war with the airboat almost pulled the hose off the pontoon. We had to retie the hose to the pontoon by the time he got it to its next position. All of the ropes, the hose and the pontoon were covered in the slippery mud which further coated both of us and our clothes.
We were both full of mud by the time we had the outfall secured at its new position. We headed back to the camp by 5:30 with great expectations of tomorrow’s dredging. Outfall was moved, Cell 4 was fully contained, water level was up, new winch and pulley was installed on the dredge.
Unfortunately, Javeler called to say they were coming out to pick up the pump tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 25
The day dawned with high water and heavy overcast. The sun looked like a full moon peeking out through the filtering clouds.
At the time of donation, the deep water pump was intended to be traded out for a shallow water pump, so now was the time. Timmy had to meet Javeler employees at Intracoastal City to show them the way out to the dredge. They brought a small tug with a flat deck to put the pump on. All of the hoses were disconnected and tied down to our deck, and we used the overhead winch and tractor drive to pick the pump up and place it gently on their deck. The 3 guys carefully laid it over and tied it down securely for the bumpy ride back across the bay.
Thursday, January 26Rained last night 2.39 inches and was still wet and drizzly by dawn. Early morning wildlife movement included flocks of snow geese and a few deer. Chironomid marsh flies have emerged and have augmented the mosquito numbers making it seem a lot worse than it is.
With no dredge and a rainy day, we worked on the pumphouse until noon. We got everything insulated, half the ceiling sheet rock up and ¾ of the paneling.
Karen A Westphal and Timmy J Vincent, National Audubon Society
Louisiana Coastal Initiative and the Paul J Rainey Wildlife Refuge
6160 Perkins Road, Suite 215, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
225-768-0921 office, firstname.lastname@example.org