Goshen News, Goshen, IN

January 30, 2013

Goshen's dam pond may be dredged


GOSHEN — They’ll soon have a plan. Now it’s all about the funding.

That was the news presented during a special meeting of the Elkhart River Restoration Association Tuesday evening at the Linway Cinema Coffee Shop. The purpose of the meeting was to let people know that the ERRA has received a Lake and River Enhancement grant through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to dredge sediment from the Goshen Dam Pond and to gather public input on how best to go about forming that plan.

To help kick off the meeting, ERRA consultant John Richardson of the ecological consulting and ecosystem restoration firm Cardno JFNew, provided attendees with the results of recent sediment mapping that showed the current depths of the water and how thick the sediment has become in different areas of the pond. Through the mapping process, Richardson noted that some of the highest flow areas of the pond are currently at about eight feet in depth, while some of the lowest-flow areas are as shallow as one foot or less.

“Some areas were so shallow they couldn’t even be accessed for testing,” Richardson said.

The group then discussed roughly which areas of the pond they would like to see dredged first. To get a better idea of which areas had the most support for dredging, Richardson provided attendees with three large maps of the pond and asked each attendee to stick a Post-it Note on the area of the pond they would most like to see dredged first. Once everyone had placed their notes, Richardson said he would compile the results and use what he found to help form the final dredge plan.

It was that kind of community input and participation, said ERRA President David Troup, that was most important to the facilitators of Tuesday’s meeting, as it really helped give them an idea of where to start when deciding how to proceed with the dredging plan.

“That’s where we wanted to get a lot of input, what people think should happen in regards to the dredging, and what areas they would like to see dredged,” Troup said. “That all has to be negotiated with the IDNR, what we can get permits for. Our goal is to have our plan laid out and as much approved as we can as soon as we can.”

According to Troup, the Goshen Dam Pond was first created back in 1856. There was major repair and replacement work in 1992 to the dam on the Elkhart River at a cost of approximately $2.5 million. In all that time, Troup noted that the dam pond has never been dredged, leading to more than 150 years of sediment accumulation that has dramatically changed the pond landscape.

“Sediment is a natural occurrence behind any dam,” Troup said. “When you create a pond behind a dam, the river goes wide and the water slows down, so the sediment naturally falls out and begins to accumulate. So there’s always got to be some maintenance in order to avoid that getting out of control.”

Such maintenance had been planned for the dam pond before the 1992 repair work, but the dam repair cost of $2.5 million turned out to be significantly higher than anticipated, leaving no money for dredging.

“I’ve lived there for 15 years on the pond, and in that 15 years, we’ve seen it dramatically increase in vegetation,” Troup said. “In the past, it was still too deep in many areas for vegetation to grow. Today, there are places where if you measured it, it’s only a foot deep or less, and we’ve got new islands that have shown up too. How much longer we can wait to do this, I don’t know, but certainly if we don’t do anything it will eventually turn into a wetland, and it won’t have many recreational benefits left for the city.”

Private, public funding

According to Troup, the LARE grant will cover roughly half of the anticipated cost of the plan, with the ERRA set to foot the rest of the bill. As for the funding of the actual dredging project, that has yet to be secured.

“This funding right now is just to develop the plan, not to do the actual dredging,” Troup said. “There is some additional LARE money that might be available for dredging, but it would only cover a very small portion of the project. There’s up to a possible $300,000 there. But to do the whole project, from what we’ve learned from talks with consultants, if you wanted to do the whole pond — which we won’t — it’d probably cost around $2 million.”

Instead of trying to do the whole pond in one shot, Troup said the goal for the project is to start out trying to get all the most important areas of the pond done first and then focus on the secondary areas, all the while continuing to negotiate with the IDNR to see what more can be accomplished through additional funding and permits.

“If somebody wants to do a bond issue, that’s an option,” Troup said. “Finding out if there’s any stormwater money that might be appropriate for this may also be an option. Then just getting some legislators on board and trying to get some IDNR money tagged for it, maybe some Army Corps of Engineers money. We don’t really know where the funding will come from, but once we get the plan done, we’ll have a good idea of what can be done, where we’ll put the stuff, and we’ll be able to generate cost estimates.”

However, even if the ERRA were able to secure the full $2 million it would require to dredge the entire pond, Richardson noted that due to environmental restrictions that will likely be placed on the project related to fish and wildlife habitats, the most the project will likely be able to remove is between 50 and 60 percent of the current sediment accumulation. After that, Richardson said, it could become very difficult to get any additional permits from the IDNR.

“The permits won’t allow us to dredge the entire lake,” Richardson said. “But we can get by with a lot less (sediment) than we have now.”

As for the potential scope and time frame for the project, Troup noted that were the project to somehow be fully funded, it is not unheard of for such a project to be completed within a year. Without full funding, however, such a project could take several years.

“If we were fully funded, and were able to get a really top-notch dredger and his equipment lined up to do it, I think it could be done in one season,” Troup said. “But the other option could be possibly setting it up in multiple phases, and trying to get funding for several different phases. That would involve much smaller projects, so you’d get a different level of equipment in there, probably slower equipment.

“Doing it that way, it could take two, three, four years. Or you could just do it until the money dries up. If you’ve got to do it that way, it could take a number of years to complete.”

Whether the project takes one year or five years, Goshen Dam Pond resident and meeting attendee Jan Yoder just seemed happy that the topic was even being discussed after so many years of non-action.

“I live on the pond, and I wanted to know what kind of dredging they were going to do,” Yoder said. “They’ve raised money before, but it ended up at the dam, or north of our area. So that’s why I was interested in what was being planned.”

Yoder, a pontoon boat owner, said she has a pier for the pond, though with each passing year it gets harder and harder to use due to the accumulating sediment. A dredging project, she said, would do wonders in helping to restore the pond to the community asset it once was for both local residents and the surrounding community.

“It’s so beautiful,” Yoder said of the pond. “I love it this time of the year, because it’s all open, and the birds that are down there are just beautiful. So I want it to stay open so we can keep boating out there. It’s such a great resource for the community. I hope we’re able to preserve it.”