GOSHEN — Elkhart County Stormwater Board members Monday learned that dredging of the Goshen Dam Pond could begin by as early as July.

The news came during an update on the project by David Troup, president of the Elkhart River Restoration Association, which is spearheading the dredging project.

According to Troup, the 140-acre pond behind the Goshen dam has become filled with sediment during its 150-year existence. The silting has resulted in a reduction in the pond's depth, according to Troup, and has also created significant aquatic vegitation growth. The shallow water also limits the recreational use of the pond and has resulted in degradation of fish and wildlife habitat, he said. The ERRA intends to use the dredging project to restore recreational use and improve wildlife habitat for targeted portions of the pond.

The goal of the ERRA is to have 34 acres of the pond dredged to an average depth of six feet. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based dredging company Grow America secured the contract for the project last year with a bid of $2.6 million.

The plan

The plan involves dividing the pond into seven sections that will be dredged according to priority and as funding allows. The dredged silt will then be transported to farmland along Kercher Road where it will be spread out to dry.

Given the scope of the project, an agreement was signed designating project responsibilities between the Elkhart County Stormwater Board, the city of Goshen Stormwater Department, the ERRA and the recently formed Goshen Dam Pond Economic Improvement District. Per the agreement, the Goshen Engineering Department staff will manage the project.

“So the first thing the city of Goshen was able to do once that agreement got signed was to hire Grow America as the contractor for the project,” Troup said. “Grow America then hired Davey (Resource Group) out of Fort Wayne as a consultant to review the plan and do all of the permitting. During that time, Grow America met with Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on the Kercher property and reviewed the project and worked with them to make some changes in the project. One of those is a move from hydraulic dredging to mechanical dredging. They thought that would be more cost-effective.”

Dredging priorities

As of now, five of the seven targeted sections have been designated as Priority 1, one section as Priority 2 and a final section as Priority 3.

“The Priority 1 areas we feel we have enough funding to do either all or most all of those areas,” Troup said. “On the north end of the pond, there’s a Priority 1 area we’d like to do that gives a little more access to the boat launch. Then the other areas that are listed as Priority 1 will benefit the property owners that are paying into the EID to give them access, and then also just make the pond more navigable in general. So the Priority 1 areas are the areas we’ll be focusing on first.”

Troup said the Priority 2 section of the pond, located in the large open area in front of the dam, will be dredged if and when all Priority 1 areas are dredged and there is money available to continue the project. The Priority 3 section, located on the south end of the pond, will likely not be touched, he said.

Troup noted that all permits for the project have been applied for and Grow America expects the permits should be issued before the planned July start date.

“They’re expecting some of those to start showing up anytime now,” Troup said of the permits. “We can’t start before July because of fish spawning. So they felt sure we’d have all our permits in by then.”

Potential hangup

One potential hangup for the project could be the discovery of a bald eagle nest on an island in the pond, Troup said. He recently spoke with Chris Mensing, the biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tasked with addressing local bald eagle issues, who indicated he did not believe the nest should be an issue for the project given its location relative to the planned dredging.

According to Mensing a 660-foot buffer needs to be maintained around the nest or an "eagle take permit" can be applied for. Troup said the only portion of the project that could potentially impact the nest are the scows that will be used to transport the dredged sediment under the C.R. 38 bridge to the Kercher site for dewatering.

“Almost all of the dredging activity is outside of that buffer zone,” Troup said. “So according to Mr. Mensing, he doesn’t recommend that we take out a permit.”

Funding to date

According to Troup, funds pledged to the project currently sit at about $1.6 million, which will allow Grow America to dredge most if not all of the Priority 1 targets while the ERRA continues to seek additional funding.

A funding summary by source includes: $365,000 from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County; $95,344 in community donations; $250,000 from the Goshen Dam Pond EID; $250,000 from the Goshen Stormwater fund; and $325,000 from the Elkhart County Stormwater fund. Troup noted that the ERRA was unsuccessful in its bid to secure another $300,000 grant through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, though the group will be applying for the grant again next year.

“So the ERRA feels very good about this,” Troup said of the overall project. “We’re not exactly sure how much savings, if any, there will be with the new mechanical dredging. I’m told there will be some savings, but not enough to do the whole project. So we’re still looking for funds, and we’d certainly be open to any ideas of where more funds might come from.”

Follow John Kline on Twitter at @jkline_TGN.

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