August 3, 2012 – LSU starting study

Dredge and Rainey Report

LSU starting study; no winch

August 3, 2012

Summary of accomplishments:

  • No dredging since June 14
  • LSU took measurements in Cells 4 & 5
  • Put a sign at the mouth of the canal in Southwest Pass Bay
  • Cleaned up around Took’s camp

Impediments:  no working overhead winch

Summary for July 31 – August 3:

Water level in the pond finally dropped below marsh level exposing the fill material in Cells 4 & 5 for pictures and in time for LSU to start their measurements. We have done no dredging since June 14.

Salinity is increasing slowly with about 14 ppm out at Southwest Pass, 6 ppm along the western shore of Vermilion Bay and 2-3 in the Belle Isle Bayou. Menhaden, shrimp, crabs, juvenile mullet and croaker are plentiful at the weirs. Pop-up squalls continue to harass us and the extreme humidity and constant heat slows every activity.

Various birds are starting to reappear as breeding season comes to a close. The herons and egrets are starting to flock-up and we see them more and more crossing the sky in the early pre-dawn light. However, the barn swallows still have fledglings in the nest, and the marshhens are still herding their black chicks along the margin of the ponds.

Wednesday, August 1

The day dawned overcast but with no thunderheads building. This was a good thing, because we needed to cross Vermilion Bay in the Goose to access our property bordering Southwest Pass. Timmy had not been able to meet with the Nature Conservancy the day we did the site visit to the oysterbreaks (July 11), so we started at Indian Point to view all of the current and planned installations along the bay and SW Pass shorelines.  We stopped at one of the oysterbreaks to check for oyster accumulation, but couldn’t find any within our limited reach.

By 8:30 we were in our private canal at the throat of Southwest Pass Bay where Timmy needed to put up a new sign. The Fish & Wildlife agents had informed Timmy that people were going into it to fish and hunt, and he couldn’t do anything about it unless it was well marked.

Timmy picked a spot just inside the canal and pulled the Goose up against the bank. We used our combined weight to push the 2x4s he picked up yesterday into the hard clay of the canal bottom, and Timmy pounded them in a bit further with a maul. The sign he built and I painted was attached to the posts and leveled.

He also replaced a couple of missing Audubon property signs along the interior part of the canal to reinforce the private property designation.

With that job complete, we again traversed the 25 miles from Southwest Pass through Vermilion Bay back to the Rainey headquarters.

After a water-break and cool down, we switched boats and took the Avocet  over to the dredge site. Timmy needed to obtain a measurement from the dredge for the length of hose that would be needed for the new hydraulic winch that Javeler, Inc was bringing soon. I feel a childlike anticipation of Christmas when I think of a new winch – it will be so nice not to have to worry about that aspect of the dredging operation! We also took the opportunity to move the water-pump toward the stern. This will clear the work area of everything but hoses, and move all the noisy equipment together behind our chairs. It also will redistribute some of the weight to counterbalance the weight of the pump suspended off the bow.

We also visited the pond. Surprisingly, the water level was below marsh level and the fill in both cells was exposed. I took as many pictures as I could of the exposed mud in our completed cells for before/after comparisons. Tomorrow, LSU was coming for measurements, and I wanted to capture the pristine look of the settled new fill before they tried to access all of their marker poles. Figure 2. Cell 4 with algae covered mud exposed. LSU’s new walkway divides Cell 4 in half and provides access to the south side of the  cell.

We took a break for what was left of the afternoon to go shopping for supper. We shopped at Hell’s Hole, Southwest Pass, Indian Point and a platform before finally finding some croaker and speckled trout at a special place Timmy knew. Supper was quite good.

Thursday, August 2

Another hot and steamy morning started with thunderclouds building on the horizon. My camera kept fogging up, even inside the lens. I worked on some reports while Timmy headed outside to work on boat motors and to mow the yard. I planned to leave today, so pulled the Avocet out of the boatshed to clean off the bimini boat top and let it dry before I took it down. I was hosing off the deck when I noticed something fluttering under my trolling motor on the bow. It was a misplaced barn swallow chick. I climbed up onto the top of the Goose, but there was no way I could reach a nest in the rafters of the boatshed from which it fell. I put the chick down on the roof of the boat and it hopped away to sit at the bow. I wasn’t sure what else I could do.

The LSU research group sent a text to let us know they were on site by 10:00, so I finished up on the computer and headed over in the Avocet to document their efforts. Timmy stayed at the house to get a few tasks completed. Sean Graham, John Cross and their graduate student Matt were setting up survey equipment when I arrived.

The water level had dropped since yesterday and now appeared to be approximately 3 inches below marsh level, exposing more mud and making access even easier. A pair of black-necked stilts circled us complaining that we were in their way before flying off to find a different mudflat. The LSU group brought planks and plywood out to spread weight and keep them from sinking into the soft mud, but they still walked very carefully out to each marker pole. I kept expecting one of them to suddenly disappear into the mud or at least slip and fall facefirst, but they wouldn’t cooperate with me, with video camera ready.

John and Sean separately accessed each marker pole and called out the code that was written on it. Matt acted as the data recorder. At each pole, a slim, metal measuring stick was used as a probe to find the metal plate that had been placed on the original bottom before we covered it with mud. The stick was then cleaned off for the measurement of mud thickness which was called out for Matt to record. At the same point, a survey stick was placed on the mud surface to determine its elevation in relation to the benchmark that was previously installed near our dock. This was done for all of the pvc marker poles throughout Cell 4 & 5.

Pictures of the operation follows:

I couldn’t help them and didn’t want to get in the way, so after documenting the basic process, I left to head back to the house. I was told later that I missed a great video opportunity when John narrowly missed a belly-flop in Cell 5. Oh well.

As I approached headquarters, I saw that Timmy was still burning trash from around Took’s camp, so I tied up the boat to help. Together we moved one of the big stacks of lumber from the yard to under the house and cleared most of the miscellaneous pieces from in front of the pumphouse. I took the boat back to the other side of the boatshed to get water and bring back the lawn mower. I discovered that the barn swallow fledging I had put on top of the Goose was being guarded with a vengeance, and it was nice to know that the parents had found it. Timmy mowed the area we had cleared near Took’s camp, then traded the mower for the 4-wheeler and wagon. He then spent the next hour or so leveling piles of dirt and shell, and filling in holes around the camp structure. When he finished, it looked a 100% better. We still have the huge pile of scrap lumber to deal with, but that will be another day.

I needed to leave this afternoon to be in the office for Friday, so cleaned up and packed up, and took a quick nap. The quick nap wasn’t quick enough, for a pop-up shower was shooting out lightening right in my path to get back to the dock. I waited patiently for it to move out of my way, and finally managed to leave around 5:00.

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