August 24, 2012
Summary of accomplishments:
Moved outfall pontoon twice; once by hand and once by airboat
Pumped 15.5 hours in to Cell 3 this week
Total time pumped directly into Cell 3 (.366 acres) = 20 hours
Total time in study cells = 166.25 hours
Impediments: isolated pop-up showers
Pumping directly into Cell 3 started in June, but there was a 2 month delay caused by a jammed pump and the wait for a promised hydraulic winch. With a new outfall float, a new hydraulic overhead winch and a rearranged deck, we were ready for some serious dredging this week.
Signs of fall are all around us. Only a few barn swallows remain, kingfishers are replacing eastern kingbirds, tree swallows are moving through, egrets and herons are flocking together and the first teal were flushed in Christian Marsh.
This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, Resume Pumping into Cell 3 hyperlink.
Monday, August 20
I was needed in Baton Rouge on Thursday, so headed down early on Monday. I stopped at Stine’s on my way down to pick up supplies and got a text from Timmy that he had gotten a head start and was already dredging at 10:00. I launched the boat and went straight to dredge without unloading or changing my clothes and arrived around 11:30.
Within 30 minutes of my settling into the routine, we were overwhelmed by a swarm of lovebugs. Lovebugs, Plecia nearctica, are extremely common, native flies of the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida, but are so local and southern that they don’t appear in some insect guides. Adult lovebugs emerge after rainy periods primarily in the spring or fall and fly coupled (hence “love”-bugs). They don’t bite or sting, but are highly irritating because they occur in swarms that should reflect density rather than numbers. They are attracted to roadways where they are smashed by cars in the millions, coating windshields and bumpers with a sticky goo that doesn’t wash away readily. They are also attracted to paint fumes which is highly aggravating when you are trying to paint anything white.
The small black bugs swarmed us, landed on us, crawled on everything and into our clothes, got sucked into the fans, got into the coolers, were EVERYWHERE. A slight breeze would spring up, and they’d blow away; but as the wind movement died, we could see them rise from the trees and bushes in clouds and drift towards us again.
After walking the dredge backwards for the last 7 hours or so, the right traveling anchor needed to be moved. I dredged while Timmy took the flat through the banana lilies to the anchor and moved it back along the bank.
While he was out, I picked up both spuds and he moved the stern of the dredge closer to the bank we are working as well. Walking the dredge back with the spuds while swinging back and forth sometimes walks it at an angle down the canal, and we have to occasionally realign it to efficiently reach all of the fill material.
Mondays at 2:00, Audubon Louisiana always has a staff call, so at1:40 I left to go back to the house, leaving Timmy dredging. The dredge is too noisy to talk on a phone. When I got back to the dredge, Timmy had paused to investigate a clogged pump. When he got it going again, I went to the pond to see how things were progressing.
The water level in the pond was just above marsh level, and in 4 hours we had made a good size subaerial delta above marsh level, with a large area of fluid mud at the south end of Cell 3. However, the pontoon appeared to be half sunk again. Bummer. We will have to look into some kind of bailing system.
As I was finishing in the pond, a large rain cloud billowed up from the south. I made it back to the dredge, and since it there was no lightening, we continued dredging in the scattered showers.
The dredge appeared to have a clog somewhere, so I operated the dredge while Timmy went to investigate the hose. He disconnected a few joints in the hose along the levee, and I would operate the pump to flush the hose. He endured a few rain showers without finding the problem, and we finally gave up at 5:30. We shut everything down, waited for a break in the rain to leave, and got back to the camp before 6:00.
Tuesday, August 21
The morning began with a heavy fog which didn’t start to lift until we were leaving camp. We took both small boats to the dredge. I checked the pump before it was deployed and found a wedge of wood stuck up in it, which we determined had caused the system to feel clogged most of yesterday afternoon.
By 7:40 the pump was working and it was 79° with a low fog. We pumped for about an hour, then Timmy went to the pond to plug the leak we had observed in the plywood containment by the walkway. By the time he returned at 9:00, the sky was overcast, the temperature had increased to 84°, and the lovebugs were back. Several egrets and herons came soaring out of the pond area over us, so we figured our breakfast buffet had been discovered. We noticed numerous tree swallows high above us and Timmy said they must have just arrived from up north. We were deep in our routine when a whistle cut through the background noise. One of the neighboring land owners, Sherril Sagrera, stopped by to visit –Timmy went back to their boat to chat while I continued dredging.
After 3 hours of dredging, we had to take a break from the noise and repetitive actions. Since we have been pumping into Cell 3 from the same spot for the last 8 dredging hours, we decided it was time to move the outfall over. Timmy wanted to move the pontoon with the airboat, but I was impatient and wanted to try to move it by hand. We untied both ropes and pulled, but the half sunk pontoon didn’t want to move at first. I persisted and got it to pull a couple of inches, so we walked as far out in the marsh as we could, I wrapped one of the ropes around my hips, Timmy pulled on the other, and we slowly dragged it over about 6 feet to aim in a different direction.
We had used 2x4s to tie the pontoon in place before pumping, and I needed one to anchor the pontoon in its new position. With the new delta around it, I could not get a canoe in to pull it out, so Timmy lassoed it for me and pulled it ashore. He is definitely a man of many talents!
We were both covered in mud. Timmy said we would use the airboat next time. Timmy headed back to the canal to wash off, but I stepped into the rain filled pirogue where I could see my feet (and what was in the water) to clean up.
Before heading back to the dredge, we added a section of hard hose to dredge side of the levee and pushed the additional length into the water. This would give us the slack we needed to dredge for a few more hours.
At noon, Timmy went back to the house for tools to secure the patch he had placed across the containment leak while I started the dredge. The waterpump wouldn’t start at first, but it was a loose connection at the battery. Timmy returned to work on the leak, then the hydraulic hoses tangled up under the pump, so we stopped for 20 minutes to retie hoses. The new hydraulic lift winch uses one cable instead of looping through a block with two, so the pump can now spin where it could not before. This causes a few problems with hoses twisting and tangling when the pump is raised or lowered.
After about 2 hours of dredging, Timmy left me dredging to keep an appointment in town. The hoses got tangled and then the tractor drive wouldn’t work to move the pump forward or back. I got irritated, picked up the big pipe wrench and gave it a hard “wack.” It promptly worked.
I dredged alone with no further problems for the next 3 hours. I kept myself entertained by watching the wildlife. Curious George (our resident small alligator) was fishing for clams in the shallow water next to the dredge. He would move his head back and forth as he crept slowly along, then throw his head sideways into the mud, pull up a big clam, lift his head and chomp it down. Clams are another item I didn’t know alligators ate.
I dredged until 5:00 when the sun was coming in at an angle that was making life miserable. After shutting the dredge down, I went ashore to view the day’s results. A nice double delta showed above marsh level as a result of 5 hours yesterday and 7.5 hours today. It’s a good start, but there is still a long way to go to fill the 0.36 acres of Cell 3.
I like to walk the narrow walkways LSU installed and look at as much of our study area as I can. Cell 5 is filling in nicely with vegetation, and the birds love the broken mudflat and scattered vegetation. I spotted a group of 5 seaside sparrows playing among the grass, and a juvenile tri-colored heron stalked across in front of me and posed nicely for a series of photographs.
Wednesday, August 22
We were at the dredge pond by 7:30 to add sections to the hose so that it would reach the farthest corner. We added along the boardwalk and pushed the hose into the pond. We had to use the come-along to pull the last connection together in order to get the camlocks to lock. We picked up the last part of the hose along the boardwalk and moved it off into the marsh and pond.
We then headed back to camp to get the airboat. I followed in the Avocet in case the weather came up on us. Timmy picked me up at the dredge landing and I rode with him through the marsh around to the dredge site. We had looped both ropes tied to the pontoon onto the 2×4 within reach of the airboat, and used the airboat to move the pontoon over to the former canoe entrance to Cell 5 (see last figure).
Timmy left to take the airboat back while I tried to resettle the hose and take pictures. I noticed the hose in the pond had a big kink in it. When I tried to flip the hose further off the boardwalk, one the aluminum connections broke and the hose came apart. I went to get the extra section we had set aside, and grabbed a hammer to start beating on the connection at the other end of the section to be replaced.
I heard Timmy arrive in my boat, and then I heard him starting the dredge so I knew he had not gotten my frantic text. If he started the dredge now, the boardwalk and I were going to get a mud shower. I dropped everything and ran to the flat boat, hurried to the stern where I could see the dredge, and frantically waved until I caught his attention. I made a “cut” sign, and he turned the pump off where he could hear me. He wasn’t please, but then neither was I.
He left to go get some more tools and a replacement connection, and I continued hammering on the corroded connection. By the time he got back, I had the hose section loose. The kink in the hose was the next problem tackled. I got in the canoe and tied a rope to the kink, and took the end to Timmy on the walkway. He pulled while I twisted, and we got it straightened out. The last connection was completed and we started the dredge at noon.
We had a heavy overcast which kept the 88° more bearable. Timmy dredged while I operated the left/right controls and took care of the waterpump and spuds. After about an hour, Timmy took the flat and adjusted left cable more to the stern, and after another hour, he went to the pond for a while. We had to stop at 3:00 because I needed to make it home this evening.
Of course we went to pond to view the results of today’s dredging. 3 hours had made another subaerial delta about an inch above marsh level at the new location, and fluid mud smoothed the surface of Cell 3 out to the first islands. It was also pushing fluid mud into the canoe access to Cell 5.