January 20, 2012
Summary of accomplishments:
- Replaced overhead winch; replaced control switch and block on right traveling winch
- Made 16 reed bundles
- Fluid mud to 7” below marsh level (-7 ML) throughout Cell 4; delta to 0 ML
- Total time pumped directly into Cell 4: 38.5 hours
- Total dredging time at study cells: 111 hours
Impediments: low water
Tuesday, January 17
Karen Westphal (I) brought the Avocet down and left it at the Sportsman in Abbeville to get the fender on the trailer fixed, then continued on to Intracoastal City public boat landing to meet Timmy at 4:00.
Wednesday, January 18
A very colorful dawn led to sunrise at 7:04 am. By 8:00 am, we were at the dredge site and went to the pond first to check water level (-8 ML). Several groups of gadwalls or green-winged teal lifted from the study cells as we walked out onto the boardwalk.
Today, we needed to replace the dead overhead winch with a brand new one. A hydraulic winch is being researched, but we wanted to keep dredging while we work out the new design.
We secured the pump so that it could not fall over when the overhead cable was disconnected. To reach the bolts that held the winch to the dredge, the cable had to be taken completely off the spool.
A few needed tools had been forgotten, so I stayed to strip the cable from both old and new winches while Timmy went back to camp. We would use the old cable on the new winch since it was cut to fit our use. With Timmy on the ladder and me on a chair, he took the bolts out, disconnected the electrical wires from the battery and removed the winch.
The new winch went up fairly easily, but we had a difficult time getting the cable back on. The frayed end had to be trimmed to get the cable to fit back into the tight hole where it is held onto the spool. Once everything was back together, Timmy clicked the control a few times to make sure it had power.
Timmy was waiting on a call so we headed back to camp. He met Frogco with the airboat to tour Coles Bayou for preliminary soil testing for the next coastal restoration project in that area.
While he was busy, Karen went back to the dredge to replace the right traveling winch controller. I had hardwired the controller previously to bypass a bad connector, so to make things easier I meant to trade out the case from the dead winch that had a good connector on it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the bolts off the bad case. They were rusted solid, so I sprayed everything down with WD-40 hoping it would loosen them. When Timmy completed his work with Frogco, he stopped by the dredge in the airboat, and he failed to get the bolts out as well. Rather than fighting it precariously on the inconvenient front of the dredge, he took the entire winch off the dredge and brought it back to the shop. With a chisel, hammer, screwdrivers and who knows what else, he managed to get the bolts out, but all of them were rusted and stripped. He traded out the winch cover from one of the broken winches and made do with just enough screws to hold it on.
While Timmy was working on the winch, I decided to make more reed bundles and headed to the back of the yard with a cane knife. Timmy came out shortly with a brush cutter and all I had to do was collect cut reeds and stack them into piles. The bundle cradle was elsewhere, so Timmy stood each pile up to arrange them and I tied them together tightly with biodegradable baling twine. The wagon on the mower was used to haul them where we could stack against a tree. We made 16 bundles in a couple of hours, and now we can see most of the pond and ducks from the deck. That was enough for a long day.
It dawned an overcast, gloomy, cool day. Mosquitoes were out in force until the sun came out. We made it to the dredge around 10 am. We reattached the right traveling winch with the replacement casing and new control switch. We also took off the old rusted pulley and swivel connector and replaced it with a stainless steel pulley. The connector I brought wouldn’t fit so tried to tie-wrap it on. The left rear spud winch was not responding to the control switch so we used the spare one we had at hand. The left winch control stuck but it turned out to be the battery connection.
We got the dredge pushed into place, but the new overhead winch would not work. (What?!!?) After a good bit of troubleshooting, and an unanswered/unreturned call to the Dayton (winch) Technical Support line, Timmy changed out the fuses and everything worked perfectly.
We finally started dredging at 12:10. We had a few problems with the new block on the right traveling winch and tried a number of ways to keep it attached.
We can still see the outfall in Cell 4 from the current position of the dredge, and as I was checking our flow with binoculars, I watched a great egret feeding right next to the outfall.
As we got into the routine of dredging, we had time to enjoy the surrounding scenery and wildlife. A flock of black-necked stilts came barreling down the canal toward us, then pulled up, did a synchronized flip turn and headed back down the canal. They did this 5 times. It was obvious that the flock mentality wanted to go somewhere to the east, but the same flock mentality could not pass the noisy dredge.
On the other hand, there was a great egret and a young brown pelican fishing along the canal completely ignoring the dredge. The egret methodically worked the bank after minnows and the pelican worked the deeper water for mullet to within a few yards of us. It was interesting to watch the pelican aerial maneuvers and splashdown, and the way it would slowly lift is bill out of the water as it drained the water before lifting to swallow the contents. At one point the pelican was splashing down in front of the egret and you could almost read the expression on the egret’s face as his fishing was ruined for that moment!
There were several reasons why we did not want to dredge too long – the water was low (-7” ML), the outfall needs to be moved, we need to add containment, etc. We closed the dredge down at 3:15 to take pictures of both sites.
As we walked down the boardwalk at the study site we were greeted by a view of black-necked stilts feeding in Cell 4 all around the outfall and new delta. We took the canoe out to Cell 5 to look for any new vegetative growth. It was good to see the whole area in mud cracks and the vegetation along the edge working its way into the consolidated mud. The marker poles indicated that the mud has settled about an inch so that the delta mound is still around 2 inches above marsh level. The short reed containment at 5a was imbedded in stiff mud and easy to walk on to reach Cell 4. The low water level accentuated the difference in substrate elevation across containment 5b, and exposed the old delta in Cell 4.
At the test site, most of the mud fill is covered by spikerush with some dormant Bacopa and newly germinated grass scattered here and there. The Spartina alterniflora along the boardwalk is thick and the tillers it sent out are starting to spread to make new clumps. The reed containment is still working to protect the fill from wave action of the outer pond.
We can’t wait to get the dredge back to this area! We want to expand the fill area here and have a number of ideas we would like to try.
Friday, January 20
The morning was more of the same as we saw yesterday – overcast, windy and very low water. We did no dredging today because the water was too low to move the pontoon and it is now sitting on a hill, I would be leaving mid day, and Timmy needed to patrol the south canals. It was overcast and foggy as we started down the canal, but cleared up as we were returning from the southeast part of the sanctuary.
Down the Bruner Canal, we watched for the Crested Caracaras that nested here last year, but had no luck. We had noticed the nest tree was missing the last time we were here, and I wanted to look for it. Timmy remembered the general area so it only took two excursions before we found what was left of it. The top of the tree that held the nest was twisted off and laying in a pile of limbs and tangled Cherokee rose vines, and there was no way to get into it to look for the actual nest. Timmy has not discovered where they are nesting this year.
We visited the Goose Pond before heading back to camp. The fresh marsh at the eastern portion looked good, but we didn’t see much avian action. The west section, however, was flitting with birdlife hiding from the brisk breeze. There were avocets, teal, shovelers, gadwall, etc etc etc…
It was a nice finish to a good week. After helping me search for my lost keys, and taking me to meet someone with the spare set, Timmy took me back to the landing. I picked up the Avocet from the Sportsman to make my way back home.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