Thursday, November 3
A front came through very early this morning with rain, and by 8am it was 56°, NNW winds at 20 mph, and heavy overcast. Timmy headed in to the dock to pick up the electricians that were to work on his out buildings. My plan for today was to add containment to 4a, but the early morning weather set other priorities. There were waves rolling down the canal in front of the camp, and the wind was blowing hard enough to blow 10 degrees at least right off the thermometer. I organized the dredging gear and worked on the computer for a while until Timmy and the electricians arrived.
Not wanting to get in the way, I packed the boat and decided to see what I could do. It was a bumpy, cold ride to the dredge site. At 10:00 am I walked out to the end of the boardwalk to plan my attempt to add containment to 4a. I was greeted by a pair of pied-billed grebes just beyond the plywood containment to the west, a flock of widgeons passed over to the south, and a group of roseate spoonbills and ibis descended into the pond just beyond our study area.
The water level had come up about 3 inches since yesterday to about -2 inches ML. This gave better access to the pond by canoe, so I loaded it with 3 bundles of the cane that I had stashed against a tree and a bundle of the bamboo posts. I couldn’t load it any higher because the wind would have rolled it off. The reed bundles had been stacked vertically to discourage fire ants from nesting in it, but a rat found the arrangement even better for a 6ft high nest.
The 20mph breeze was coming out of the west, and made paddling a loaded canoe quite entertaining. I had to sit in the front, because no matter how hard I paddled or poled, the canoe would swing inline with the wind. I had to pull myself into the wind above marsh islands, then pull myself sideways and slide backwards toward my target. Luckily, the gap I intended to fill was smaller than the canoe, and the wind jammed the canoe into it broadside, so I did not have to fight the wind to keep the canoe still while maneuvering the materials.
I put a pair of bamboo poles about 5 feet apart in line with the cell border poles LSU had placed. Each pole was placed, pushed into the substrate as far as I could push them, then I banged on them with a paddle to make sure they were set. The first bundle of cane was placed between the poles, and the cut end was pushed under the marsh grass and against the shoreline scarp. I got out of the canoe to walk on the bundle to smash it into the substrate and hold it down while I tied it between each set of poles with the biodegradable (Timmy calls it “bayou-degradable”) baling twine. A second bundle was placed on top of this to make sure the reed level was a good 4 inches above ML at the marsh/water interface. The next bundles were placed between the poles and overlapped each other. Each bundle was walked on and tied down separately. It took 6 bundles, 2 canoe trips, and an hour to close the 14 foot gap.
With that task completed, I took time to inspect containment 4c and 4d. 4c had been damaged and scattered by Tropical Storm Lee and it has long been evident that sediment escapes through this barrier, and that it is the point of primary tidal exchange with the greater pond. The depth here is greater than elsewhere in the cell and it is difficult to get the reeds to stay submerged to block the flow. We plan to construct a plywood wall behind this since it has proven to work well for the outer containment in Cell 1. Containment 4d, however, was in good shape, well coated in mud and solidly in place.
I got back to the dredge at noon. I had brought lunch, so I set the dredge up and started pumping at 12:35. The north and west winds had depressed the tide so that it continued to drop all day. Toward late afternoon, the water dropped so low I could see the scarp made by the dredging we had done along the south bank.
With the high winds, flocks of birds were flying low along the canals where the trees lining the levees blocked the wind. Several times I was surprised as a flock of ibis or black-necked stilts, egrets, ducks, or cormorants came barreling down toward the dredge to dodge away at the last moment. I finally worked with my camera in my lap trying to capture some of the activity. More than once I wished I had a remote camera set up in the pond as I watched quite a few birds sail over the trees apparently heading toward our study area. The cool weather had all kinds of creatures in motion, including one lone small alligator that seemed confused as it zigzagged down the canal.
I dredged until 5:00, but because of the low water, I was unable to get to shore to take pictures of the weeks work. I got back to the camp about 20 minutes after Timmy had returned from dropping the electricians off at the public dock. He was in a very good mood as they had completed all of the electrical work to the outbuildings. When it finally got dark, we went out to enjoy the new lights; not only in the buildings, but lights for the outside work area as well.