Source: Kate House-Layton, Delaware State News
SMYRNA - A plan to dredge Garrisons Lake near Smyrna has been in the works since the late 1980s.
Although clearing the lake of vegetation had previously been listed as top priority to improve fishing, there were always delays.
Now the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is ready to get moving.
"By Wednesday, God willing, we should be sucking mud," Larry Schwartz, a dredging assistant for the New Castle Conservation District, said Monday.
Chuck Williams, program manager for DNREC's Division of Soil and Water, said the project was to start Monday, but there were problems with equipment delivery and parts. Some of the equipment has been at the lake since Thursday.
The state has partnered with the New Castle Conservation District because the Kent County agency doesn't own dredging equipment.
Mr. Williams said heavy vegetation has clogged the water, creating a poor habitat for fish in the lake.
About 115,000 cubic yards of silt will be dredged from the eastern half of the shallow lake along U.S. 13.
Finding a place to put the dredged silt had been one of the obstacles that delayed the project.
Delaware's rapid development had narrowed the state's options for finding a home for the dredged material, because potential sites had been developed or land owners weren't willing to hold property long enough for DNREC to dredge the lake.
In 2003, the state had considered spreading the material on six acres at the Delaware State Troopers Association headquarters just south of the lake.
Now, Mr. Williams said, the state plans to spread the silt on two 10-acre tracts near Smyrna that belong to the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.
This is the fifth lake-dredging project DNREC has done since the state's dredging policy went into effect in mid-'80s, Mr. Williams said.
The state is trying a different approach from conventional methods by using a dredging press on the project.
"We've never used this equipment before, so there's a lot of gray area," Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Schwartz said the dredger works like a large vacuum that loosens and sucks material from the bottom of the shallow lake through a pipe.
The material will move through the pipe into a holding tank and finally through the press.
Stephen Scott, watering service manager for Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. of Chester, Pa., said fresh water is pumped back into the lake, while solid material is conditioned with polymer that often is used for water filtration at drinking water plants.
The material goes through the press and comes out as a solid, which the state will take to the Fish and Wildlife property.
The project will not affect fishing at the lake, Mr. Williams said.
Bill Campbell of Smyrna, who was fishing at the lake Monday afternoon, said it took two years before fishing at Concord Pond returned to normal after the state dredged it several years ago.
Mobile Dredging has taken its presses all over the country, Mr. Scott said.
The question is how well the conservation district's dredge equipment will work with the press, he said.
"Every project's different," he said.
Using the press is more expensive than traditional methods of pumping silt directly from water onto an open area, Mr. Williams said.
The division received $100,000 from last year's state capital budget for dredging.
Mr. Williams hopes more money will come from this year's capital budget to finish the project.
If the press method works, he said, the state could consider buying one for future dredging projects.