Cell 5 complete; moved to Cell 4
November 18, 2011
Summary of accomplishments:
Completed dredging into Cell 5; fluid mud at +3 inch ML
Moved pontoon to Cell 4
Total time pumped into Cell 5 (with spillover to Cell 4 & 3): 72.75 hours
Total time pumped directly into Cell 4: 22 hours
Total dredging time at study cells: 95 hours
Impediments: low water level in the canal; high water in the pond; very windy; overhead cable frayed and fixed; right cable broke; overhead winch limits speed of pump; traveling winch controls stick.
Each front that moves through brings more waterfowl down. The morning skies are filled with wings.
A hydraulics expert, Jack Winters of CrucialSystems, Inc was sent out today by Javeler Construction, Inc. to check over our pump, and he requested to be picked up at 10am. This made a lazy start for my day, and I headed down to go by Stine’s in Abbeville for a few necessary items before meeting the boat at the dock. On the way into the camp, we watched as a deer swam across the canal in front of us. It’s amazing how fast they can swim!
The main hydraulic unit had been making noises that had us concerned for a while, but of course had quit by the time the tech came. He did a few mysterious things inside the unit before we started up, and said that it may have had something stuck in a valve that had finally dislodged. He stayed for a while as we worked, checking gages and listening to various things, to make sure everything was working properly.
We’ve been having trouble with the traveling controls. The switches sometimes stay on when the switch is released, and even come on by themselves at times. After about an hour of pumping, the right control decided to start up and before we realized it, the left cable broke loose where a rope ties it to the anchor. At least it didn’t pull a tree down this time! This created a 20 minute delay as we shut everything down. Timmy took the Goose over to the bank to get a rope from the airboat he had parked at the boardwalk and he reconnected the cable to the anchor. 30 minutes after restarting the pump, it clogged, the culprit this time was a rag in the impeller. We pumped for another 30 minutes, and then shut everything down so that Timmy had time to take the hydraulics expert back to the dock.
Jack was very impressed with our operation and asked if he could go see the project before leaving. Timmy took the Goose to shore, we fought our way through the mosquitoes and walked out on the boardwalk to give him an overview. There were a few cormorants and a grackle using our plywood wall for a dry perch, and a kingfisher using a containment pole as a fishing perch. A pair of eagles swirled around the west end of the pond. After dropping me and my gear at the camp around 2:30, Timmy headed back to the mainland to take him back to the dock.
While he was gone, I put all of my things away and then at 3:30 took the flat boat back to the dredge site. I brought the salinity meter with me. The canal was at 9.3 ppm and the pond was at 9.6 ppm with a layer of fresh water 0.02 ppm at the surface as a result of last week’s rain. I took the canoe out to take pictures. A flock of white pelicans passed up the canal as I got to the boardwalk.
The water level in the pond was right at marsh level (ML), and the marker poles in Cell 5 showed that the mud had made a slight dome with most of it at the orange mark, or +3” ML, the heavier material mounded around the outfall crater to +4” ML. Marsh level in this area is roughly a foot above sea level at NAVD88. The mud sloped to marsh level at the perimeter and had also made its way into the marsh nearest the cell. A grackle meandered across the hose and mud, and came to the containment I was standing on to inspect me.
I made my way back to the dock and to the camp by 4:30. Timmy had returned before me. Rain was forecasted for tonight, and Timmy wanted to pull his mudboat up at the Christian Marsh landing to make sure it didn’t take on too much water, so we took a ride down the canal. The big Frogco machines that were shaping the NAWCA terraces were sitting idle in the background like sleeping dinosaurs.
Wednesday, November 16 – moved the pontoon to Cell 4
An intense line of storms with included light show came through overnight and dropped an inch and a half of precious freshwater on our surrounding marsh. We awoke with the line of storms visible off to the east and the yard wet with pooled rainwater.
Once again the sky was full of moving waterfowl and birds of all kinds. On this day, the morning calm was broken sporadically with the sound of gunfire, as sportsmen on neighboring properties enjoyed the beginning of the hunting season.
We made it to the dredge site around 8 am. Water level was at +3” ML. With Cell 5 full and the water level high, it was time to move the outfall to C4. I took the canoe out and Timmy ran the airboat around to untie the rope on the south side, but a rat had apparently done that for us as the portion of the rope on land was in several pieces. He reparked the airboat and brought the pirogue out instead.
Timmy disconnected the hose at the first joint on land, and together we pulled the hose and pontoon toward shore. With no ropes attached, we couldn’t steer it, and we had to stop when it threatened to run over some of LSU’s marker poles. Timmy pulled the pirogue over the marsh into Cell 4 and then over the 5b containment where the reeds were at marsh level and the mud in Cell 5 was at its lowest level. We did our best not to disrupt anymore of the substrate than necessary, but this was necessary. While I made my way across the loose, muddy containment to the south side of Cell 5, he poled out to the pontoon. It was like moving around in pudding. He found the broken ropes or added new ones and then threw the ropes to me to pull himself back to shore. I managed to pull the pontoon away from the LSU poles, and threw the ropes back to Timmy. I walked back over the containment, which was getting squishy by now, and used the pirogue as part of the bridge before helping him pull the pirogue back over into Cell 4.
Back on solid marsh, we pulled the pontoon by the ropes over to the marsh by containment 5b, then used the handles on the sides to pull it onto land and over to Cell 4. Timmy re-arranged the ropes and strapping then we pushed the pontoon into the water in Cell 4 at the site of the first delta we had created in this cell. Together, we pulled on the hose that was still looped into Cell 5 until we got it up on the marsh and the pontoon out in the water.
Timmy walked around the marsh to the north side of Cell 4 and while he pulled on the pontoon with the ropes, I pushed, pulled, rolled and slid the hose by increments over each lump of marsh grass as far as we could get it by land.
Again, while he pulled and steered the end around the LSU marker poles, I pushed the hose into the water. The pontoon floated easily as it was designed to do, and the hose, mostly empty, cooperated nicely. I used a 2×4 to lever the last parts of the hose into place.
We had decided to start pumping at the SW part of Cell 4 because it is the deepest part of the study area, and we hope to fill it so that the effluent will flow away from that side. We had reinforced containment 4c with plywood last week, so Timmy took reeds out to reinforce the short containment at 4d.
Cell 5 has now been abandoned as we focus on filling Cell 4.
We were both exhausted and covered in slippery, smelly mud. Looking forward to doing nothing more strenuous than sitting in the shade pushing buttons, we returned to the dredge at 10:30 and got it set up for pumping, excited to start seeing results in Cell 4. High water in the canal meant we could dredge the good stuff up near the bank to start filling the problem area of C4.
However (there’s always a “however” on the dredge!), after pumping for a little over an hour, we both noticed the overhead cable was becoming dangerously frayed. The overhead winch and cable is the newest item on the dredge, but it takes the most use and abuse. The pump it raises and lowers is extremely heavy, and the cable winding on itself binds, crimps and otherwise grates on itself. If that cable breaks while the pump is overboard, we are figuratively sunk. The soft mud we are pumping is 8 ft deep, 12 feet to the bottom, and would be rather difficult (I never say “impossible” around Timmy) to retrieve. So, we stopped operation, flushed and washed the pump and headed back to camp for necessary tools. We were both exhausted from the morning’s exertions, so took time to get a decent lunch and took a nap.
Luckily, I had bought a length of cable intending to change out the right traveling cable. Timmy was soon back on the ladder with his hands in the winch again. We tied the pump securely to both uprights, then stripped the cable off the winch. The new cable was measured out, cut and attached to the winch. The other end was passed through the block on the pump, clamped around a metal eye and securely shackled to the dredge. The cable was then carefully wound back on the reel to avoid any crimps or slacks. By 3:30 we were ready to start pumping.
Once again, we settled in our chairs and started dredging. 30 minutes later, the right traveling cable broke. Darn. I reeled it in to find that just the loop at the end had broken, but the cable was rotten with rust for a good length. Timmy found a spot that wouldn’t break when he made a loop and then dragged himself to the flat boat to tie it back up to the anchor tree. That was enough. We finished our line, cleaned up the dredge and filled all the tanks as the sun was getting low, and headed home. I slept hard that night.
Thursday, November 17 – pumped to Cell 4
It was a slow morning as I levered myself out of bed just in time to get my dawn photos. My body was reminding me loudly of yesterday’s activities. Today would be short for me at Rainey. I had a public meeting to attend this evening, and since Timmy would have to take me back to civilization, he wanted to have time to do his in town duties so he wouldn’t have to come back again tomorrow.
We got on the dredge and had it going by 8:30. It was 57° with a clear but windy sky. Water level was dropping fast as the 20 mph winds were pushing it out of the bay and sucking it out of the marsh. We pumped for a while before the pump started clogging up with shells and woody debris.
When Karen went to swap spuds, she discovered that the left spud cable was binding. One of the cable strands had broken and was sliding down to cram itself like a spring in the winch.
We dredged for a little while longer until the pump got clogged again around 11:00. There was no reason to drop it again when we would have to stop in another 15-30 minutes so we shut everything down. I washed the pump down and started stowing everything while Timmy worked on the overhead traveler. The unit has been tilted for as long as I can remember, with one of the wheels almost off the beam. Timmy fixed it.
With that done, we moved the whole dredge over. Timmy took the anchor off so we could reel in the left cable as a safety measure since the Thanksgiving holidays and hunting season would go on all next week with the dredge idle. The north shore of the canal is owned by the neighbors and they lease out areas for hunting.
With the water level extremely low, we could not get to the shore to inspect what we had done. There will be a high level of anticipation for the week after Thanksgiving!
The ride home was cold and windy, and because of the low water, we had to go the long way around through Belle Island Bayou and the Freshwater Bayou navigation channel. I was glad to be inside the cozy cabin of the Grey Goose, especially since there were high seas on the nav channel!
I stopped in Abbeville for raw oysters and gumbo at Dupuy’s before heading over to St Martinville for the Atchafalaya Basin Program annual plan public meeting. I was several hours early, which gave me time for a much needed nap, and a chance to catch up on reports and things. At least on this night, the meeting ended by 7:30! It was only another hour and a half home…Yawn.
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