July 13, 2012
Summary of accomplishments:
- LSU added to the walkway in the study cells
- Mangrove seedlings planteed
- Javeler came to get the non-functioning pump June 21, and returned it on July 12
- TNC Oyster break site visit at SW Pass
- Outfall pontoon pulled
- No dredging
Impediments: no pump
Summary June 14 – July 13:
Last month (June 14), the pump had failed to engage in spite of my best efforts to troubleshoot, and the construction company, Javeler, Inc. came out on June 21 with the LSU crew to retrieve it. With no pump, we engaged in other activities, some dredge related and some not.
The 4th of July holiday fell in the middle of the first July work week, and made it difficult to schedule a decent field trip. Thunderstorms popped up somewhere every day, limiting field work in general. With no pump, no dredging was accomplished.
However, many other accomplishments can be listed including: LSU walkways were extended; work on the pump house continued, maintenance issues were addressed; site visit to the TNC oysterbreak project; new motor for the Goose; and the outfall pontoon was pulled out for restoration.
June 28-29, 2012
The State of the Coast conference was held this year in New Orleans June 25-26, and Audubon Louisiana had a booth next to Tranquility Coastal Nursery and Coastal Restoration (Jimmy Broadwell) who gave me 4 black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) seedlings. The very next day (June 27th) Timmy and I planted the foot-tall plants along the terraces in the pond behind the headquarters. They were marked with bamboo poles and GPS recorded. We checked them 2 weeks later to find them healthy and growing vigorously. If they make it through the winter, they will be the first mangroves documented in Vermilion Parish.
That same Thursday in the afternoon, John Cross from LSU brought a graduate student with him to put in more walkways in the study area. The water was very high still, and the shallow water was very hot. With all the iron in the water, it looked red.
The walkways are narrow, but very convenient for checking on the spread of marsh grass without having to pull out the pirogue. LSU will use them to access their monitoring points and reference cells. I hiked out across them to look at Cell 5, and the high water accentuated the new vegetation that had colonized the highest part of the fill and highlighted the new, dark green 3¬square spreading from the perimeter of the cell.
I also discovered on my trip across the pond, that our pontoon float supporting the outfall end of the dredge hose had sunk. One of the corner screw-eyes had pulled out many months ago leaving a small hole, and our last efforts moving it around must have created some other leaks. It will need to be hauled out and drained.
Wednesday, July 11
Karen (I) met the Nature Conservancy at Cypremort Point for a site visit of the artificial oyster reef they had installed last year and new sections that were being constructed offshore of Audubon property at Southwest Pass. Rain was pouring down when I got to the dock and the wind across Vermilion Bay had pushed the water level at the landing up into the parking lot. It was too rough for Timmy to meet us onsite, so I was the only Audubon representative onboard.
In the lee of Indian Point at Southwest Pass, the 3-ft seas calmed to ripples, but the water was so high that the new installations on the north side were hidden under 18 inches of turbid water and all we could see were the marker poles. At one of the sites, a cormorant sat atop the warning sign as if to make sure we saw it. All of the poles that had been erected became favorite resting sites for a variety of other birds as well, including terns, gulls, and pelicans.
Inside the pass, we cruised past the older installations. The water level had dropped enough to see some of the structures, but it was too turbid to check for oyster accumulation. I did notice that the marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) behind the various structures looked less eroded than the marsh at the ends. In some places there was a good bit of marsh grass expansion seaward. The patch of roseacane (Phragmites sp) looked significantly further seaward, and because this water is brackish and the cane is into the water, I suspect this Phragmites is a different species or variety than that growing on most of our levees. I will be very interested in the results of the LSU group that is monitoring the ecology around the structures.
We ended our visit watching a new artificial reef being installed inside Southwest Pass. A very large airboat with a crane would snag the circle of concrete from a barge, rotate it over the water and then lower it to the waiting workman who guided it into place. With the high water and the units just at the water level, it looked as though one of the workers was walking on water.
We watched the operation for a while and had some lively discussions on the front deck, with a nice lunch provided by TNC. The ride back across the Bay was just as bumpy as the ride out. I left the dock at Cypremort Point and headed west to Abbeville, then down to the marina to meet Timmy for the 20 minute ride out to the Rainey headquarters.
Thursday, July 12
With overcast skies and little breeze, Timmy took me to the dredge area in the airboat so we could pull the pontoon. On the way, we took a tour of Cole’s Bayou looking for black terns. We are determined to document a nest for the unbelievers of the birding community. It’s a tricky business looking for black tern nests – past nests were observed on a wad of floating vegetation, and the airboat wake can easily roll the eggs off into the water. Although we did spot a few terns in breeding plumage, we could not find a nest on this day. We will though, if not this season, then the next – we are confident!
At the dredge site, we parked the airboat on the levee to figure out what needed to be done. I traversed the walkways while Timmy pulled the canoe out and poled over to the submerged pontoon. The water level had dropped and the top was more exposed making it a bit easier to work on. It took Timmy a while to untie all of our ropes and get the hose disconnected from the pontoon. He tied the free end of the hose to a pair of 2x4s to keep it from getting lost in the mud.
We tried to move the pontoon by hand, but it was solidly stuck in the mud and very heavy with water. The two long ropes that were tied onto the pontoon for moving it around were tied together, and Timmy pulled the end to the shore by the dock. I walked back across the walkways and boardwalk to meet him at the airboat. Timmy drove the airboat to the shore and I got out to tie the rope onto it.
The airboat could barely budge the pontoon at first, but the float slowly turned and followed. Once it reached the scarp at the edge of the marsh, the pontoon got stuck, which meant the airboat was stuck too. I had to get out of the airboat to cut the rope off of the cleat under the bow, so that the airboat could be turned around. Timmy and I tried to pull the pontoon over the edge of the marsh it was caught on, but it was more than evident that the pontoon was going nowhere.
We would have to drain it before it could be moved, which meant it had to be taken apart. We had brought no tools with us, and no other transportation than the airboat, so it was back to the camp across the Deepwater Lake marshes.
We loaded up the flatboat to return with the necessary tools to head back to the dredge area. We paddled the canoe over to the pontoon on the northeast side of Cell 3. While Timmy took out the screws holding the lid on, I used my knife, a pry bar and hammer to cut through the caulk seal. Water and mud poured out, and the inside of the structure was completely black and smelled of marsh mud.
We could pick it up then, and balanced it on the canoe. I walked around through the marsh and Timmy poled the canoe back to the dock. Together we carried it down the boardwalk, across the levee and put it on the bow of the flat boat to get it back to the workshop. Timmy used his power washer to clean it out and off, and we set it inside his workshop to dry out.
Weather was threatening, but we got a call that the pump was being brought to the dock after lunch. We loaded up the Goose and headed in to the public boat ramp to meet the truck. Timmy brought the Goose as close as he could to the ramp, and the truck backed down to meet us. The whole bed of the truck moved out and down to make a ramp. As the truck operator let the chain holding the pump slack, Timmy used his come-along to pull the pump down. They finally got it onto the deck and it was strapped down for transportation back to the dredge.
At the dredge, we used the overhead winch to lift it off the Goose and swing it onboard, but did not try to hook it back up. We had lightening in the distance and didn’t want to get caught out in bad weather. Plus, we have a new winch coming soon from Javeler, Inc., and the old one sounds like its chewing rocks as it spits out metal shards from the bad bearings. I don’t want the pump to end up on the bottom again if I can help it!
Friday, July 13
Timmy brought me back to the boatshed early. He had to go to town this morning as well, so I followed him to stop at the storage shed to take pictures of another Audubon boat that could be put back into service with enough funds. All it needs is a motor (and a good bit of cleaning). The motor was pulled off to use on the Goose after Hurricane Rita in 2005.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