COLUMBUS, OH -- Dredge crews working at nine Ohio State Parks are keeping waterways safe and navigable for recreational boaters and their watercraft, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Eleven hydraulic dredge units are currently suctioning silt from lake bottoms, channels and marinas at Buckeye Lake State Park in Fairfield County, Cowan Lake State Park in Clinton County, Dillon State Park in Muskingum County, Grand Lake St. Marys in Auglaize County, Indian Lake State Park in Logan County, Lake Loramie State Park in Shelby County, Mosquito Lake State Park in Trumbull County, Shawnee State Park Marina on the Ohio River in Scioto County and along the Muskingum River Parkway in southeastern Ohio.
Our dredges keep otherwise shallow waterways open for recreational watercraft, said Dan West, chief of Ohio State Parks.
Most typically, dredge crews can be seen working at the state's historic "canal" lakes. These lakes, which include Indian Lake, Grand Lake St. Marys, Lake Loramie and Buckeye Lake, were built in the early 1800s to supply water to the state's emerging canal transportation system. Towboats are long gone for those canals today, but the lakes that fed them flourish as recreational destinations - their inherent design requiring near-constant silt and sediment removal.
Because they were hand-dug in existing marshlands, the canal lakes are naturally shallow. Eroded soil from surrounding watersheds, stream banks and shoreline contribute large amounts of sediment that "fill up" the lakes, clogging channels and tributary streams in the process. Ongoing dredge projects ease boater access throughout these historic and popular waterways.
Likewise, dredging is ongoing along the historic Muskingum River Parkway that runs through parts of Muskingum, Morgan and Washington counties. Eroded soil tends to collect around the parkway's 10 locks. To maintain navigability through the lock system, a barge-mounted crane and tugboat moves up and down the river removing silt and sand.
In addition to the "canal" lakes, dredge crews can be seen working at other Ohio State Park lakes in areas where topsoil from surrounding watersheds washes in via tributary streams. Mosquito Lake, Dillon Lake and Cowan Lake require lengthy dredge work to keep sedimentation at bay.
Another place where sedimentation has caused ongoing problems is on the Ohio River at Shawnee State Park marina. Efforts to remove sediment from the marina area will conclude this year, as will three-year projects at Cowan Lake and Mosquito Lake.
Finding repositories for the silt dredged from the bottoms of lakes and streams is an ongoing problem for Ohio State Parks.
Our first priority is to get it up and away from the water, West said.
Dredged material is pumped into upland holding areas where it is allowed to dry out before being used in some beneficial way. Sometimes, dredged material is transformed into recreational areas such as a BMX bike course. Or, the nutrient-rich soil is spread on nearby gardens or farms.
Dredged material has also been used beneficially to create wetlands. A four-acre wetland at Madison Lake State Park in Madison County is the by-product of a dredging project at that state park.
ODNR has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to create a similar wetland at Indian Lake with sediment dredged from the lake bottom. These wetlands provide a variety of wildlife benefits and can serve to protect shorelines from erosion as well.
A third option for disposing of dredged material is to place it in the lake, creating an island in the process.
This is not our preferred alternative, by any means, West said. Our waterways are limited in size and we prefer to not make them smaller. Although, sometimes due to certain conditions, in-water fill is our best choice.
ODNR owns and operates 11 hydraulic suction dredges, a weed harvester for cutting nuisance aquatic plants, and a variety of support equipment. Fifty full and part-time employees work in the parks dredging program. Cost of ongoing dredging efforts in Ohio State Parks is about $3.3 million yearly. The Ohio Waterways Safety Fund's watercraft registration fees and marine fuel gas tax support the work.
It's a good working partnership between Ohio State Parks and the ODNR Division of Watercraft that keep park waterways safe and navigable for Ohio's boaters, West said.