April 18, 2012 – filling Cell 4

Wednesday, April 18

Dawn brought golden skies highlighting the trailing clouds of the storm system. The three deer of our resident herd had bedded down in the yard, and were quite tolerant of my usual appearance on the deck to take pictures. They weren’t too sure about me when I walked over to the new house construction and took off into the woods when I climbed the ladder to get a morning view from the raised deck.

Figure 1. Golden sunrise and three deer.

Figure 1. Golden sunrise and three deer.

I headed over to the dredge site in the flat boat at 8:00 and walked out on the boardwalk. The water level in the pond was high, at 5 inches above marsh level (+5 ML).

I brought the salinity meter and discovered that both the pond and canal were about as fresh as you ever find it in this area at 2.00 ppm and 1.75 ppm, respectively. The spring rain this year was greater than it has been in years, and the marsh was lush, green and healthy, taller than I’ve ever seen it and hanging over our boardwalk.

Figure 2. Spring rain was reflected in the tall, healthy beautiful marsh around our boardwalk.

Figure 2. Spring rain was reflected in the tall, healthy beautiful marsh around our boardwalk.

I spotted Timmy in the airboat zigzagging back and forth through the marsh as he made his way through hidden waterways to the site. He needed the airboat to meet a group in Coles Bayou, and since the dredge site was on the way, he brought it here first to help me get the dredge going before he had to leave.

Figure 3. Timmy in the airboat coming around the experimental cells. At +5 ML, the outer containment wall (straight line) is barely above water.

Figure 3. Timmy in the airboat coming around the experimental cells. At +5 ML, the outer containment wall (straight line) is barely above water.

Last week, we had lost the pump when the cable came off the overhead winch after being completely unwound in a deep hole, but managed to retrieve it by the end of the week. Before dredging this week, we unspooled the overhead winch cable to mark a spot so that we would know when it was close to its limit. I had brought flourescent paint, but knocked the little spray head off when I pried the cap off, and through the deck grate it went (Of course!). Timmy tied some survey tape on it instead to act as a flag to keep us from unspooling it too far.

By 8:40, we had the dredge back in operation and moving mud again. Our day was cooler in April at 60° than it had been all March! Even though the water level was high and we would lose finer material through the marsh and containment, we wanted to add heavier material while we could. We stopped about 40 minutes later so that TV could leave in airboat for Coles Bayou. Karen continued dredging for another 2 hours by herself. It was very pleasant to have everything working properly so that I could get into a regular routine.

Figure 4. Barn swallow checking out possibilities.

Figure 4. Barn swallow checking out possibilities.

We had discussed trying to move the outfall as often as possible now that Cell 4 was almost full, to spread the heavier material around the cell. The heavier stuff tends to stay close to the outfall, and the lighter material tends to flow to fill in the low spots, including in the marsh. 2 hours was more than enough in one spot, so I stopped to take a break for lunch.

As I shut everything down, a pair of barn swallows joined me under the canopy and were inspecting the dredge framing. One was very interested, and the other kept flitting in and out as though to say, “Are you crazy? Here!!?!!”

Timmy arrived at the camp in the airboat as I was packing the boat to head back to the site. We got the dredge started again and Timmy dredged while Karen went to the pond. I paddled the pirogue to the marsh island north of Cell 4 and waded through the marsh to where the outfall was tied. The waterlevel had dropped to +4 ML, there was muddy water all in the marsh, and there was a wide delta just at the surface. Time to move it!

Figure 5. Water level was at +4 and there was heavy material just above the surface, so it was time to move it.

Figure 5. Water level was at +4 and there was heavy material just above the surface, so it was time to move it.

I untied both pull ropes and had to yank them up from under the mud. I walked around between cells 4 & 5, set my feet, wrapped the ropes around my hips and used my weight to pull the outfall over a foot at a time. The pontoon floated and slid well once I got it moving. I moved pontoon over about 15ft or so and tied it off again to the pole I had brought.

The vegetation colonizing the high area in Cell 5 was highlighted by the flooded conditions, and various clumps are becoming easier to identify. There are several clump of grass, maybe wild millet or switchgrass, several clumps of curly dock, and a few others not yet recognizable.
With things set again in the pond, I paddled back to the boardwalk and joined Timmy on the dredge. While he operated the pump, I handled the side to side winches, the spuds on the rear, and kept the waterpump fueled. The post larvae are moving through again, and numerous small crabs came swimming by the hose and barge.

We had to stop for a clogged hose. Timmy went ashore and took the hose apart at a likely spot, and Karen operated the pump to flush any clogs, and continued dredging when it was cleared. While he was out, Timmy moved the anchors attached to the side to side winches. Each swing of the dredge walks the operation backwards a few feet, so periodically we have to adjust anchors and position.

With everything working so well, we kept at it until 5:30, then packed it up for the day.

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