Summary of accomplishments:
- Most of Cell 3 is at -1” ML or better
- Record pumping day of 8 straight hours with no break downs or stoppages!!
- Total time pumped directly into Cell 3 (.366 acres) = 57.75 hours
- Total time in study cells = 204 hours
Impediments: cold front pushed water out on the 3rd day
This report can be downloaded in PDF file format by clicking the Dredge and Rainey Report, Cell 3 Almost Full hyperlink.
Monday, December 3
Karen drove down from Baton Rouge, launched the Avocet, and made it to the Rainey Sanctuary by 9:30. I stopped off at the dredge site on my way in to check on conditions and pick up a piece of plywood. We’ve had several days of southerly winds, so I have high expectations of being able to dredge. I unloaded my stuff at the house while Timmy cut the plywood up for me, then Timmy and I headed out to the dredge site in both of our small boats.
We made it to the site at 10:30. The water level was normal in the canal and pond at 0.5” above marsh level (+.5” ML), perfect for dredging. Salinity was 10 ppm in the canal and 9 ppm in the pond, about what Timmy thought it would be by the color of the water. He says higher salinity doesn’t carry sediment very well, so it looks clearer and greener.
We had a few things to do before we could dredge. The last time we dredged almost a month ago, we had low water conditions in the pond and the difference in water levels had forced some holes under our containment. Timmy slid the pieces of plywood against the plywood containment deeper into the mud to plug the holes. I retrieved another piece of plywood from Cell 5, and we pushed it into the mud against the marsh by the boardwalk to decrease sediment loss there.
The outfall needed to be moved too, and with water in the cell, it was fairly easy to move around. We added another rope to increase the length of its reach, and I pulled the canoe out to bring the end around a marsh island to Timmy. We also needed the canoe to help guide the end of the hose around the island (Figure 1). The wind was fierce, the water was very shallow, and I got quite a work-out. I tried to pole the canoe at first, which made plenty of sense with the very shallow water; but the new sediment was extremely soft and sticky, so a pole would sink deep and then stick making progress impossible. Using the paddle was more like mud crawling than paddling. 2 inches of water over soft mud and each paddle pushed up a ridge of mud above water, so that I left a trail of humps behind me. As I struggled against the wind to straighten marker poles and get back to the dock, Timmy pulled the hose into place against the eastern edge of Cell 3 and tied it off (Figure 2).
By 11:30, we were on the dredge getting it prepped to start. I opened up the battery box at the bow to connect the traveling winches and wasps started crawling out. Timmy had to finish those connections since I was then at the back of the barge. Did I tell you I’m semi-allergic to wasp stings?
Timmy started dredging at11:50 at the south side of the canal and we settled in for the dredging routine. Down, down, down, up, over, down, down, down, up, over – it takes about an hour to cross the canal. After about an hour, Timmy left in the flat boat to move the outfall. We found that once the target area becomes shallow, it fills better if we move the outfall around to spread the heavier material.
For the half hour he was ashore, I dredged, kept an eye on the wasps, and entertained myself by surveying the area by binoculars. I spotted marsh hawks, a peregrine falcon, and various flocks of waterbirds moving back and forth at end of canal. By the time Timmy returned, it was quite warm, 83° and partly cloudy.
After another hour, Timmy used the flat boat to shorten the rope on the anchor to the right so that we could swing a little further across the canal. He continued on to the pond to move the hose to the northeast corner of the Cell. The wasps were making me nervous. They continued to crawl out of the box and seemed highly attracted to the overhead machinery that moved the pump (Figure 3). After a while, I couldn’t stand it anymore and sprayed the battery box down with the wasp spray. Sorry guys.
This last swing of the dredge had walked the barge back far enough that the left cable needed to be moved back. When Timmy returned and took over the dredging, I flipped the cable release on the left winch, got in the flat boat and pulled myself to the bank by the left cable. It was an easy thing to untie the cable from the anchor tree, pull myself along the bank using bushes to the next tree and retie it. At the end of the south swing at 3:30, we decided to stop – another 2-hour lap across the canal would put us into dark on this short December day, and we like to end on the south shore so that the dredge is out of the way for the night. We closed up the dredge and went ashore to see the result of our almost 4 hours of dredging.
I was a little disappointed that we hadn’t made mountains, but it was nice to see the northeast corner with fluid mud to the surface at +.5” ML. It was evident we were still losing sediment to Cell 2, but Cell 3 is very, very shallow. At this water level and fill, almost all of the water we pump into Cell 3 seems to be exiting near the dock, which is good and bad. That means we aren’t losing sediment anywhere else, but it also means there is quite a current flowing through a few holes, and current means carried sediment. Redirecting the flow for the longest, slowest flow will be the directive for tomorrow.
Tuesday, December 4
The day started overcast with a prediction of rain today. By 8:00 we were at the pond, and with prefontal south winds, the water level had come up a half inch to +1” ML. It’s always interesting walking out on the boardwalk first thing in the morning – you never know what wildlife will be present. This morning, there were a group of gadwall in Cell 1 that scattered upon our approach, and a group of 5 pied-billed grebes were dipping just outside of our study area.
Back to dredge to prep, we had it pumping by 8:20, with 70°, an overcast and drizzly sky. After an hour, Timmy hopped into the flat to adjust the right traveling cable, then continued on to pond to patch holes in containment and to move the hose several times. He returned after an hour, just as we could see rain coming down the canal from the west. There wasn’t much air movement and the temperature was now 74°, so sitting under the dredge canopy was quite pleasant – the sound of light rain tapping the roof and bubbling around us in the canal could barely be heard over the machinery.
At one point when I was swapping spuds for the change in swing direction, I noticed the heavy algae growth on the side of the pontoon, and a rather large blue crab that ducked out of sight as I leaned over to look. This gave me an idea, and I grabbed the minnow net I had stashed onboard to make a scoop along the side of the barge. This resulted in a net full of small shrimp and a juvenile crab. We thought at first they might be post-larval white shrimp, but on closer inspection, the small claws on the front feet showed it to be grass shrimp (Palaemonetes vulgaris).
By 11:00, we were beginning to hear thunder, but could see no sky-to-ground streaks. We decided to keep dredging instead of running the boats back in the rain. Rain continued falling and we continued dredging. Another hour went by, and I picked up both spuds and used a long stick to move the stern of the barge over. Our swing was uneven, and the barge was “walking” too close to shore. It rained. It wasn’t long before I had to move the left cable back to another tree. We broke out food and ate lunch. A little while later, Timmy moved the right anchor back as well. It rained. We tried various things to keep ourselves entertained. Get up and walk around the deck; watch water dripping from the leaves; eat; get up to look at the pump; check email and Facebook – it rained.
Ibis flew over; both colors – white and white-faced. I spotted a kestrel in tree on the right side of the canal, and a belted kingfisher in a tallow tree across canal from it. Pelicans cruised over in groups of 2-6. Birds other than waterfowl seemed to be lying low.
At 1:30, a break in the rain allowed Timmy to head to the pond to move the hose around some more – once again, I am grateful he is here to help with the dredging. I would have to shut down the dredge to move the hose if I were by myself. However, handling the dredge alone is even easier now with the hydraulic winch. The control for the up-down is on a long cable, and I can carry it with me to keep the operation moving along as I do everything else. I can even take it with me to the stern to swap spuds, or keep it next to me when I fuel up the water pump. It also shuts off the mud flow automatically when the pump is being lifted, so the amount of excess water pumped to the pond is minimal.
It started pouring rain by the time Timmy returned from the pond, and the temperature had dropped to 70° with a slight breeze. It was starting to become a bit uncomfortable as everything turned damp. I even spent a few minutes standing inside the open door of the hydraulic unit to warm up. We stopped at 4:10, with a record day for our little dredge => 8 continuous hours of dredging with NO breakdowns!!!
A break in the rain came just as we headed to the pond for our end of the day review. Timmy, of course, had been watching it all day. What I beheld was a slick calm Cell 3 with water level up to +2”. The gray lighting made it difficult to determine what was fluid mud and what was water. Then it began to rain again, and the rain-plops in Cell 3 were definitely mud splatters in ¾ of the cell. Cell 3 is looking pretty full! Figure 10. white droplets in the foreground indicate water, the dark droplets in the rest of the cell were from fluid mud at the surface.
Wednesday, December 5
It rained almost all night, and we had to wait for it to clear before getting our day started. Our guesstimate was around 3 inches of rain. Even though all of the boats were under the boatshed, both small boats had to be bailed. The Avocet has a bilge pump, so I engaged it while moving the boat out of the boatshed and over to the dock to load it for the day. Timmy, however, bailed his the old-fashioned way – by pulling the plug at the stern while underway. I was following him up the canal, and he completely missed the river otter that crossed over in front of him. I saw the flattened two-toned head and confirmed my ID when it crawled up on the bank with its long sinuous body in the classic otter pose. He disappeared into the marsh before I could get my camera out.
We got to the pond at 8:40 to see the water level was again at +1” ML, and that there were several deltas now above ML at the NE corner of the cell. The mud had settled just a little so that there was about an inch of clear water on top. The canoe that I had left tied at the dock was half full of rain water, and firmly implanted in the mud. I’ll have to remember to bring the solar pump to bail it.
Timmy wanted to be able to move the hose around through the middle of the pond today, so we added a rope to the outfall to pull it in both directions. He pulled it first all the way around the island, and the hose acted as a giant skimmer to pull soft mud with it.
We had pushed plywood into the mud next to the boardwalk to prevent mud from flowing through the marsh, but we saw that it was flowing along the barrier to exit another hole through the marsh. Timmy brought one of our last reed bundles and we squashed it into the mud and pinned it down as best we could. Timmy also stapled some Tyvek plastic across some of the worst leaks in the plywood containment yesterday, and it seemed to be working well.
We were on the dredge pumping by 9:30, with Timmy dredging. The sky was still overcast but the temperature today was a comfortable 65°. I thought we had eliminated our wasp infestation, but as we got under way with the noise and vibration, I started seeing one after another crawl out of the left cable winch case.
After an hour, Timmy left for the pond to move the outfall. I took over dredging, and observed an increase in bird activity today: white pelicans wheeled overhead; multiple small flocks of ducks crisscrossed the canal; roseate spoonbills, a merlin, various gulls and terns, and a flock of about 25 white ibis kept me entertained.
It takes about an hour to dredge across the canal. Timmy would dredge for the swing to the north, then leave to move the hose in the pond, check the containment and do whatever was necessary. He usually made it back to the dredge by the time I was ready to start north again. It was quite a pleasant routine. (At least for me.)
The front that went through last night had shifted the wind direction, and I watched as the current in the canal flowed constantly out. For each swing of the dredge, the water was further from the bank and there was less water under the pontoons. On the third swing toward the bank, the dredge was hitting bottom. I ever so slowly tried to pull the dredge over to get one more drop of the pump next to the bank, but it was too shallow and I popped the rope on the left cable. With Timmy at the pond, fixing it was up to me. I disengaged the pump and throttled it down, then pulled my boat around and tried to reach the bank. My boat has a slight V-shape to the bottom, and just would not get close enough to the bank for me to reach the rope tied to the tree. Luckily, Timmy returned at that moment, I pulled my boat out of the way and he used the flat boat to skim up to the tree and retie the rope.
We then had to pull the whole dredge away from the bank to get it to float, and it left a big ridge of mud to show where I had tried to pull the dredge. One more swing to the north, and a partial swing to the south, and we were out of water in the canal and had to shut it down for the day.
A trip to the pond showed the entire cell to be fluid mud to +2.5” ML, other than the area close to the dock and where the current was flowing through the marsh. We wouldn’t really be able to see what we have done until the water level drops.
Thursday, December 6
I missed my sunrise this morning. Thick fog blanketed the landscape, and muted the mallards calling from the backyard pond.
Erin Greeson is our new Communications Director for the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Flyway Regions, and we had invited her out to see what we are so diligently and passionately working to conserve. She was due at the boat landing for 10AM. I needed fuel in my boat anyway, so the Avocet and I headed in. I stopped at the pond first for a quick look, and flushed 2 roseate spoonbills and a juvenile night heron next to the boardwalk marsh.
With the fog in the canal, I made sure my GPS was up, but in the bay it was light enough I could see the important navigation landmarks. I stopped at Shell Morgan to load up on fuel and diesel for the dredge, then tied up the boat at the landing for a visit to Maxie Pierce’s for groceries. Erin arrived right on time, and we headed back across the bay.
I decided to start Erin’s tour at the dredge site on the way in since the diesel containers needed to be dropped off at the dredge, and Timmy came to meet us. We invited Erin onboard and showed her how everything worked without actually starting it up. Then we headed to the pond for the show and tell.
The water level had dropped to marsh level, exposing soft mud over 85% of Cell 3. This will settle, of course, but it was still exciting to see mud where it had been 10-15 inches deep this summer. We took Erin on a walking tour of the cells using the LSU walkways made of 10” or 12”-wide planks. I have to focus on walking rather than sight-seeing or I walk right off the edge. I felt like a proud mother showing off her children as we toured Cell 5 which was filled last January and is growing marsh like crazy. Timmy and I described the containment construction, mud management, marker poles and attached settling discs, wildlife, and other things surrounding the marsh restoration work.
We headed back to house to eat lunch. I had a telephone appointment with the Audubon IT to work on Timmy’s computer, while Erin and Timmy had their discussions. They left to tour the Rainey property while I was finishing up.
I knew their route and tried to catch up, but missed them at Goose Pond. Rather than run the boat all the way to the south end of the property, I opted to wait for them at the Christian Marsh dock. It was a very nice cruise from the Goose Pond to the dock, slowing down to take pictures along the way. I tied the Avocet to the dock and did my best to identify birds in the bushes (chickadee, phoebe, myrtle warblers, palm warbler?, savannah sparrow) until Erin and Timmy arrived.
Timmy took us for a mudboat ride through the terraces. Erin was enamored of the plump American Coots trying to run/fly across the water, and she got to see several roseate spoonbills that she requested. I think it was a good tour for her.
I needed to head in this afternoon. The boat was packed with all of my gear, and Erin and I left the house at 3:00, stopping one more time at the dredge site on way out. The water level hadn’t dropped much and the cell was still de-watering. I wouldn’t get to see it again for another week at least, which should allow the new sediment to consolidate some before we dredge again.
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