May 9, 2012

Wednesday, May 9

The sun barely peeked through the heavy overcast for sunrise. At 7:00 am we left for dredge site.

It didn’t take long to fix the starboard spud. Timmy disconnected the old cable and we threaded the stainless steel cable into place. The end had to be trimmed to attach it to the winch, and I wound it tightly and took up the slack. Timmy tied a rope from the top of the spud to the flat boat to pull, and I stayed on board to push the spud up and operate the winch to eventually rotate it back to its upright position. The pins were reinserted and locked and we were ready to pump again. Hopefully, that would be one less cable to worry about.

We could dredge as soon as the discharge was moved to a new position. For this, we needed the airboat. A quick trip back to the headquarters to drop Timmy off, and I headed back in the flat and tied it to the bank. Timmy came by to pick me up in the airboat. We headed off to the Cole’s Bayou airboat trail and took the route around by LSU’s old study site into Deep Lake to the study site.

On the way, we detoured through Coles Bayou to look at the recently completed terrace project. Marsh birds were thick in the existing marsh, and Timmy counted 19 Least Bitterns that we flushed on our trip around the canal.

Figure 3. A just completed terrace in the Cole’s Bayou area.

Figure 3. A just completed terrace in the Cole’s Bayou area.

Figure 4. Multiple terraces in the Cole’s Bayou area.

Figure 4. Multiple terraces in the Cole’s Bayou area.

At the study site, we were greeted by a flock of least, semi-palmated and stilt sandpipers that were reluctant to leave the rich pickings of the fresh mud. They kept swirling about as the airboat was cranked up or moved about.

It took several tries to move the pontoon and the discharge hose. The pontoon was at the end of a large curve of hose, and moving it meant pulling against a lot of heavy, thick mud. The pull ropes were tied to the airboat, and the first tug wouldn’t budge it. The second tug broke the rope. (AARGH!)

The only way to get to it without getting lost and covered in mud was by airboat. Timmy drove around to the south side of the cell and carefully entered the cell. I stepped out onto the slippery 4’x4’ pontoon deck and tied a new, hefty rope through the handles and around the hose. Then straight across the mud of the cell we went, the pontoon began to move – then we hit the marsh island, where our momentum was slowed just a bit and we got stuck. We eventually got enough slack in the rope to turn the airboat around, and Timmy gunned it and pulled the outfall almost to the NW corner of the cell. We’ve been trying to avoid bringing the airboat into a cell full of mud, not knowing how it would affect the fill. Surprisingly, the airboat passage had not left a ditch as we had feared, but skated across the top of the mud merely smoothing it out. Hmmm, this might be a new technique – mud sculpting by airboat!!!

Figure 5. The discharge hose on the pontoon and the delta it had built. Notice the thick texture of the mud pushed up at the right corner of the pontoon.

Figure 6. The airboat track across the mud hardly left an imprint. You can see in the foreground that the mud is right up to the original marsh surface.

All of this was completed early and we started dredging at 10 am. We stopped after 10 minutes to add a section of hose to the canal side to give the dredge swing some slack. After an hour of dredging, Karen took the pirogue to the pond to assess our progress. The water level was -1″ ML in the pond and +2” ML in cell 4.

Figure 7. Fluid mud was escaping from the west end of containment 4b.

There were several places where the effluent was escaping into Cell 2: at each end of the plywood containment 4b, under the reed containment 4a through a blow-out, and through the marsh itself. Even with this loss of material, the cell was contained well enough to hold 3 inches higher than the pond, and the outfall position was creating a delta of heavier material in the NW corner as we intended, filling in the lowest part of the cell and make a semi-dam to keep more material in the cell.

Figure 8. Effluent was also escaping under and over containment 4a (left), at the east end of containment 4b and through the marsh (right), but all of it was going into Cell 2.

We stopped dredging at 12:00 to again move the outfall to the east, making a large curve in the hose. With the cell so close to being full, we were trying to move the discharge every hour to spread the heavier material and make a series of mounds. It seemed to be working. At almost 2, we headed back to the house for lunch.

Timmy had some things to do, so Karen went back to dredge alone and started dredging again at 3:00. Twenty minutes later, one of the neighbors, Mike Sagrera, stopped by to see what I was doing, so I showed him how the dredge worked while I pumped. After he left and I finished a swing across the canal and back, I shut down the dredge at 4:10 and headed to the pond again. The one hour of dredging into the shallow cell had made another delta roughly +2-3” ML. I managed to move the outfall over between the last 2 deltas by hand. Well, by part of me anyway! I wrapped the rope around the weighty-est part of my body, set my feet solidly, then leaned back to pull, ease up to pull the slack around, and leaned back again. Inch by inch, I pulled the pontoon toward me. Ya’ learn to use what ya’ got to get the job done! After that, I had just enough energy to take some pictures, pack up and get back to the house at 5:30.

Figure 9. Pulling the pontoon by myself involved wrapping the rope around my hips.

Figure 10. View to the southeast of Cell 4 from the marsh pirogue landing and from containment 4b.

My day was done, but Timmy’s was not. The carpenters working on the new camp next door called from the boat landing on their way home, to report that gar fishermen were putting in. We’ve had trouble in the past with gar poaching, so Timmy went on alert and called the local Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents as well. At 4 am. Timmy was out on patrol, and sure enough found evidence of their trespassing, but was too late and missed them.

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