Over the Dredge

why we probably can't have river boats and barges

Over the years various locals have looked to cities like those along the Mississippi, and voiced interest in dredging the river, the idea being that this depth would allow for large-scale boats to traverse the river corridor for boat tours, rides, showboats, and sunset dining cruises. Dredging, or the process of removing material from a riverbed, involves a permit process through the DNR that assesses the environmental impact. Based on his general understanding of what the city hopes to accomplish and some aerial looks at the confluence area, the initial reaction of Dave Pericak, aquatic habitat coordinator for the DNR, was pessimistic.

“Just looking at this, I can see the sediment plume coming from the Eau Claire River and I suspect it’s a problem area for maintenance,” he said.

When a community is evaluating the possibility of dredging, Pericak said the type of sediment and the velocity and hydraulics of the flow are key. If you have a sandy area with lots of velocity and sediment displacement, dredging would only work on a short-term basis and would require regular maintenance. Thus, it’s cost prohibitive. (Look to the ongoing maintenance of Lake Altoona for an example of this.)

“The cost depends on the amount … but it’s an expensive process,” he said, adding that doing so via a barge is far more expensive than a land-based excavation. “Most communities haven’t found it viable simply for recreational access and purposes.”

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