The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reported a highly successful 2017 dredging season, with 1,053,042 cubic yards of material removed from state park lakes and other state properties. That surpassed the 2016 total of 1,011,458 cubic yards of sediment were removed statewide.
Notable lakes with significant dredging include Grand Lake St. Marys with a record year of 455,000 cubic yards being removed. That eat the 2016 record of 405,523 cubic yards. Lake Loramie also experienced a record-breaking by taking out 106,058 cubic yards of sediment, exceeding the 2015 record of 72,000 cubic yards. Indian Lake removed 110,800 cubic yards of dredge material, also beating the 2016 record of 100,054 cubic yards.
ODNR dredges removed enough material from Ohio’s lakes in 2017 to fill 81,003 dump trucks, and if those dump trucks were lined up bumper to bumper, they would stretch 383.5 miles. Other dredging sites for 2017 included Buckeye Lake, Cowan Lake, East Harbor, Findley State Park and Rocky Fork lake. The 2018 dredging season will begin in April.
The ODNR operates a fleet of thirteen dredges plus one long reach excavator working at the Muskingham River lock cleaning project. A number of the dredges are stationed at long-term projects including three at Grand Lake St. Mary’s, two at Indian Lake, three at Buckeye Lake and one at East Harbor on Lake Erie. Rocky Fork Lake, Cowan Lake and Findley State Park have one dredge each. The southwest Ohio lakes of Rock Fork and Cowan have seen dredge operations continue over the last several years.
Rocky Fork has the Tusk dredge. Last year was very good with 77,687 cubic yards of sediment pumped. During the winter off season there was much work to be done on the Tusk. The work included new sheet metal on the hull, adding floatation material and painting. The 2018 season will continue to see the operations concentrated in the west end of Rock Fork.
Tom Grabow, ODNR Dredge Program Administrator adds, “The open water dredging provided deeper water for navigation purposes and created silt traps. Additionally, ODNR placed 300-feet of rip rap along the north shore. There is a full season of dredge work scheduled with the addition of a new Dredge Material Relocation Area (DRMA) to the east of the North Shore Marina. The area will be nineteen acres and capable of holding 250,000 cubic yards. The plan calls for the completion of dredging at the west end of the lake. The next effort will concentrate on the North Shore Marina and boat ramp. The DRMA at the west end of the lake will see the completion of the reclaim efforts to restore the location to farming.”
Cowan Lake has also seen significant dredging operation in the east end of the lake and the creek channel for several years. Grabow reports, “The Eagle dredge removed 30,864 cubic yards of material. The nature of the clay sediment in the east end of the lake has slowed progress. Work will continue in this area for the 2018 season. A new DRMA area was constructed adjacent to the existing area to add 90,000 cubic yards of capacity. Future efforts will move to the west end of the lake at the marina, boat ramps and sail boat harbor. In addition to these efforts, the Eagle, which has encountered engine troubles, will have a new motor installed prior to the start of the 2018 dredging season. This will provide increased horse power and dependable service.”
There are a number of challenges which constantly face the dredge operations. Grabow reported that the number one ongoing challenge is to find suitable locations to construct the DRMA pits. The program often works with local farmers and other landowners to lease the property. ODNR must complete the necessary reclamation efforts to return the land to farm. The other constant concern is boat safety in the area of dredge operations.
Grabow explains, “The most challenging obstacle is to maintain boater safety at East Harbor and Buckeye Lake. Both locations have very long discharge lines over 12,000 feet. Our objective is to keep the discharge lines on the bottom of the lake permitting navigation over the lines. The lines are weighted so the pipe will not surface. The lines are marked with large orange marker buoys. Boaters should use caution in the area as the lines may surface unexpectedly during dredge operations. Warning signs are being placed at boat ramps to warn boaters.”
The dredge operations are critical to the continued boating access and navigation in many of Ohio’s lakes. Many lakes are aging with erosion and agricultural runoff adding to the sediment. I’ve spent many early summer mornings on Cowan Lake when I’ve heard the groan of the big diesel dredge start. The sound of the dredge working under load conditions tells me progress is being made to take care of the lake.
I remember fishing the upper end of Cowan Lake as a youngster in area that are no longer accessible. I’ve seen the dredge operations at East Harbor working hard to keep navigation lanes open for access to Lake Erie. Hopefully, boaters will use caution and avoid the dredge operations area as much as possible. It’s necessary work for continued boating and fishing access.