By Colin Hogan
After only a couple months in the water, Fulton’s dredging efforts removed more than 20,000 cubic yards of silt from Lake Neatahwanta in 2014.
The city began dredging its portion of the 750-acre lake, which it shares with the Town of Granby, in late September after awarding the project to Illinois-based Groh Dredging and Marine Construction.
Local officials believe that by dredging silt from the lake, which has been closed to swimming and other recreational activities for years due to a high concentration of blue-green algae, they can restore the flow of the freshwater springs that feed it and help mitigate the algae’s growth.
In the two months of dredging Groh did during the fall, workers removed more than 20,000 cubic yards of silt, which comprised nearly two of the six outlined grids the city plans to clear, according to Mayor Ron Woodward Sr.
“The pretty much completed the first two grids we mapped out,” Woodward said. “We’re permitted to clear out six of them. They’re about 300-by-300-feet each.”
Woodward said that high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous in the silt have also been contributing factors in the algae’s growth. He said the 20,000 square feet of silt that has already been removed was tested and showed high concentrations of both chemicals, and samples from the water where the dredging occurred are now showing the chemicals in lower concentrations.
“That leads me, at least, to believe that what we are doing is lowering the nitrogen and phosphorus,” Woodward said.
As of November 30, Groh had completed the work it was contracted to do. Now, the Lake Neatahwanta Revitalization Corporation — which administers Fulton’s portion of the project — will have to put the dredging out for bid again to begin the next phase in 2015.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation prohibits dredging in the lake during fish spawning season, which it defines as April 1 through July 15. Woodward said Fulton will probably put the next phase of the project out for bid in late June in hopes of starting right after the end of spawning season.
Fulton and Granby have each received $200,000 in state funds for their dredging efforts, as well as numerous donations from the community. The city’s “One Yard at a Time for $12.89” campaign, in which residents are asked to contribute a minimum donation of $12.89 — the cost to dredge one cubic yard — has proven to be a successful fundraiser for the endeavor.
“We’re getting there. We’re always getting donations in. We get a lot of small ones, and they all help. More than that, though, they show the level of public interest,” Woodward said.
Woodward expects that, with the dredging currently done for the season, donations will be coming in slower, but he still believes people are interested in contributing to the next round.
“Of course this time of year (donations) will slow down. It seems to be best when you can actually see the dredge out there working,” Woodward said. “We had a tremendous amount of sight-seers down there (during the fall) watching them work. I spoke with a lot of them and they all seemed very happy to see something being done.”
By Colin Hogan