Ponds don’t clean themselves, and that’s a lesson at least two parks are learning in recent weeks. Sharon Sheffield Park in Lynn Haven, Florida, and John Sevey Park in Wilbraham, Massachusetts both began undergoing dredging projects in August.
The latter needs help on account of storm runoff that’s sent sediments (sand and other material) into the pond over the years. Bruuer Pond at John Sevey Park has become, “a critical stormwater detention basin for runoff from Monson Road and the Wilbraham Mountains,” according to MassLive.com’s Conor Berry.
“I think it’s going to be healthier after we perform our work,” explained Wilbraham Department Works Director Edmond W. Miga Jr.
The health of the pond has been adversely impacted by storms dating back to 2011. In addition to affecting foliage in the area, the inclement weather has also caused erosion on the brook’s banks, and that erosion spawned sediments along the bottom of Bruuer Pond. As a result, the pond now has a shallower water level that undermines its ability to house wildlife and store additional stormwater.
It’s not an unusual phenomena, but nor is there a cheap, overnight solution. The work at Sevey Park is scheduled to require a little over two weeks. Of course, that’s nothing when compared to Westfield, New Jersey’s dredging of Mindowaskin Pond. Originally scheduled to begin on or near Aug. 1, that project has been delayed until the Fall once dewatering permits have been issued—and it’s anticipated to last approximately three months.
“It might smell a bit during the process,” Town Administrator Jim Galdea said of the Westfield dredging scenario. “It should be a very messy project, but a necessary one.”
Meanwhile, the Sevey Park project will cost a clean $88,500 for Springfield’s Gagliarducci Construction Inc. to handle the job. In addition to cleaning up the pond, the gig will also involve some landscaping. But when all is said and done, the park should look as good as new.
“You won’t see any signs of this,” Miga added. “Nature comes back, and it will come back.”
The pond project won’t be the last work performed on Sevey Park, either. Additional drainage work and other efforts are expected to cost another $1 million next year.
“My staff has been working on this for almost three years,” Miga told MassLive.com.
The project at Florida’s Sharon Sheffield Park may be slightly less ambitious, but it reflects a similar objective. Dirty ponds need help—in this case the removal of, “debris, old pine straw and leaves,” according to WJHG.com.
“We’re only in phase one of the overall renovation efforts for Sharon Sheffield Park,” explained Lynn Haven Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Director Ben Janke. “[The dredging] has to be done just to maintain the habitat of the flora and fauna in the pond, so it was a no-brainer to put this on the to-do list.”
The project at Sharon Sheffield Park isn’t expected to take quite as long as the Bruuer Pond endeavor.
Pond dredging isn’t anything new, but the need to protect a healthy habitat and promote more aesthetically pleasing natural environments has become increasingly important for many local and state governments. To whatever extent there’s public interest in maintaining the health of a pond, keeping it clean and safe for wildlife generally seems worth the expense.
That was the same logic that inspired Auburn, Michigan, to accept a $62,000 state matching grant back in 2014. In that case, the fish population of a 3-acre city pond was jeopardized. The pond’s ability to support once-popular fishing hobbies suffered dramatically as a result.
“We’ve conducted two park surveys, one back in 2007 and more recently one in 2012, and in both instances pond dredging was a top choice among residents,” Auburn mayor Lee Kilbourn told Midland Daily News at the time. “We want to extend the life of the pond. It’s been filling in for years, and now is the time to take action so people can have a better fishing experience and enjoy the pond for years to come.”
When the man-made pond was constructed in the 1960s, its depth reached 50 feet. By 2014 there was only seven feet of water at its deepest point. That doesn’t just mean less space for the fish to operate. It also endangers their lives.
“The pond gets too hot in the summer and freezes over in the winter, resulting in fish dying as a result of a lack of oxygen in the water,” Kilbourn added. “The pond is a focal point of the city’s park, and we’re doing our best to upgrade it. Our residents have made it clear they want park upgrades, including better fishing.”
Indeed, it’s often local residents and their representatives who bring attention to these kinds of pond issues and the dredging projects they necessitate. Needless to say, some dredging projects are more costly than others—especially in the wake of natural events like Superstorm Sandy. That storm sent plenty of sediment into Connecticut’s Winnapaug Pond back in 2012, necessitating an expensive dredging effort that’s required the removal of 32,500 cubic yards worth of sediment from the pond. About 25 percent of that sediment is estimated to have been a result of Sandy.
“It’s important to dredge the pond not just for the health of the pond but for tourism, the residents who live there and aquaculture,” argued Misquamicut Business Association executive director Caswell Cooke Jr.
According to The Westerly Sun, the total estimated cost of dredging the pond in its entirety was as much as $1.9 million. Federal funding and state matching was awarded to offset the expense.
Winnapaug Pond isn’t the only body of water in Connecticut requiring a dredging project. Binney Park pond in Greenwich has accumulated enough silt and litter that it’s due for some work of its own. That dredging effort will target 9,500 cubic yards of sediment and attempt to dispose of it off-site in an environmentally friendly way.
“We’ll be starting around this time next year, assuming we obtain the budget to do the project,” predicted Public Works Deputy Commissioner James Michael. “We believe we can do that.”
The same pond was previously dredged back in 1997.
It might be too soon to declare pond dredging the world’s latest trend, but it’s clearly becoming a reality among many parks, industrial and residential areas. Broadly defined, dredging simply entails the removal of sediments from the bottom of any body of water. While it can be used to create waterways, improve navigation or even prepare future construction projects, it’s become a commonplace solution when it comes to keeping ponds healthier and less murky.
Though the process has historically been fraught with side effects for the surrounding natural habitat, more recent innovations have spurred a kinder, gentler approach.
So what’s changed in recent years? Superior technology and technique have created a far less invasive procedure that’s both more efficient and environmentally friendly. That win-win situation has changed the way many underwater services companies go about dredging, much to the ponds’ delight.
Thanks to its professionally trained specialists and top-shelf equipment, American Underwater Services is well-versed in these kinds of solutions. Pond dredging is one of its most tried and true specialties, and it’s committed to working with customers to develop projects that meet their unique needs and interests. With a long history of successfully doing these and related jobs, your next pond dredging project need not be a massive headache.
If and when you find yourself in the market for dredging solutions, just remember that a low-impact approach isn’t necessarily more expensive. You can do wildlife, vegetation and the pocketbook a favor at one and the same time.
Given the availability of cost-effective and environmentally sustainable dredging methods, it’s no surprise that parks (and other entities) around the country are making the much needed investment. Put simply, ponds just can’t stay healthy without the help.
One key is determining whether your pond would in fact benefit from dredging, and that depends in part upon the consistency of its base.
“If your pond has a firm bottom of sand, gravel, clay or bedrock, dredging the soft much on top may provide you with greater depth, reduced nutrients for algae and more oxygen,” explains the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, per HobbyFarms.com. “However, if the pond is without a firm bottom, dredging will only deepen the pond and may even increase algae or aquatic plant problems by exposing bottom sediments that contain more available nutrients.”
More often than not, however, at least some kind of pond management is in order. Without it, you’re leaving nature to its own—sometimes cruel—devices.