Lake Dredging 101: What Is Dredging?

A healthy lake after dredging service by lake and Wetland

Very much like a living organism, lakes go through many changes. Several factors affect their health and wellbeing, but almost nothing is as detrimental to the health of your community or golf course lake than sediment buildup that creates an inability for it to retain water. Proactive lake management strategies such as aeration, nutrient remediation, and buffer management can help keep lakes healthy. However, as your waterbody naturally ages and accumulates more and more sediment, dredging may be required to return the lake to health.

Lakes regularly go through the naturally occurring process of sedimentation, when sand, silt, and debris gradually accumulate on the bottom of the water body. Over time, this sediment builds up and can cause serious issues in the lake, such as noxious odors, discoloration, scum, and aquatic weed overgrowth.

These are all signs that the lake is struggling to survive, and its health is in danger. If left untreated, the situation often becomes increasingly dire, and the lake loses depth, the shoreline erodes, and the aquatic plants and wildlife disappear.

In addition, the hot, wet summers that Florida is known for can cause real problems for lakes. Even though these summer storms can come in and out in a flash, the consequences last much longer. Our rainy season causes excess leaves, twigs, and other debris to wash into lakes, compounding the issues caused by sedimentation. If you are in need of professional mechanical vegetation removal in Florida, contact Lake and Wetland Management.

Signs that your lake is aging and in poor health include:

Loss of depth – overtime excess debris and sediment accumulation cause the lake to become narrower and shallower.

Harmful algae blooms or overgrowth – the excess nutrients that collect on the lake’s bottom feeds algae, leading to overgrowth that depletes the water of the oxygen aquatic plants and fish need to survive. You may notice smelly, unsightly water and, eventually, fish die-off.

Overgrowth of aquatic weeds and loss of aquatic wildlife – fewer waterfowl and fish in your lake and an abundance of weeds that begin to take over the lake’s surface.

These are all signs that you need to take fast action to improve the health of the lake and its surrounding environment. Dredging is often the solution to excess sedimentation in lakes. Depending on the long-term outlook for the lake, dredging can have a variety of benefits, such as:

  • Increase in volume and depth
  • Eradicate debris and deep-rooted plants
  • Removal of nutrient-laden sediments
  • Restoration of stormwater detention capacity
  • Improve water quality in the lake
  • Create a balanced ecosystem for aquatic plants and wildlife

Definition of Lake Dredging

The quick definition is the process of removing excess sediment using a machine called a dredge. This is an inevitable management solution in many lakes and stormwater ponds due to the natural process of sedimentation described above. Dredging helps reset the lifecycle of a lake, making it safer, healthier, and deep enough for boating and other recreation.

How Does Dredging Work?

Before you decide to have a lake dredged, it is reasonable to ask, “how does dredging work?” A dredge removes muck and sediment from the bottom and sides of the lake. There are multiple dredging options available that can accommodate various properties, environmental restrictions, budgets and waterbody types. Hydraulic dredging and mechanical dredging are two excellent management services used to restore lakes and ponds back to their functioning state. Though this solution is costly, the investment will be well worth it and can give years back to your waterbody for you to enjoy.

Hydraulic dredges have a submersible pump that sucks up the debris. Once it is excavated from the lake’s bottom, the muck, sediment, and debris travel through a long tube from the bottom of the lake up to the surface. The contents of the tube – the dredged material – must then be disposed of in compliance with state, federal, and local government regulations and laws. Hydraulic dredging is generally preferred for lakes, rivers and wetlands when the volumes are large and site logistics favor the transfer of sediments via pipeline over many truck trips.

Mechanical dredges use buckets to excavate sediments and transfer them to barges or trucks for disposal or beneficial reuse. Truck transportable mechanical dredges such as Aquamogs can be delivered to virtually any waterbody to remove sediments in targeted areas or to clear rooted marginal plants such as cattails from stormwater detention basins or flood control channels.

For most ponds, the most cost effective option is mechanically dredging lakes with a floating excavator or Aquamog that is capable of direct sediment transfer to dump trucks.

What Is Dredging Used For?

Water bodies are dredged for many reasons. For example, in canals and waterways, dredging is used as a preventative measure to keep these areas free of debris and allows boat traffic to move freely and impeded. Lakes can also be dredged once or twice a year as a preventative measure.

However, in some instances, lakes and their shorelines are often already damaged by sedimentation and pollution, so restorative dredging is required. Below are some of the many reasons dredging is used.

Maintenance

Dredging is an essential part of lake maintenance. By getting rid of accumulated debris, dredging restores the lake to its original depth and promotes its health. This process removes pollutants, dead vegetation, and trash that can cause the lake’s water to become unbalanced.

Reclamation

Dredging removes contaminants from sewage accumulation, stormwater runoff, and decayed plant life.

Increasing Lake Depth

The buildup of sediment on the bottom of the lake will, over time, reduce the depth of the lake and degrade its shoreline. Dredging removes the accumulated debris and restores the lake to its original depth. In addition to improving the ecosystem of the lake, it can also help prevent flooding.

Ecosystem Maintenance and Wildlife Preservation

Dredging helps improve and preserve the ecosystems in lakes in many ways. By getting rid of dead plants and vegetation, sludge, trash, and other debris, dredging helps improve water quality and maintains the ecosystem for local wildlife. In addition, it remediates excess nutrients in the water caused by runoff. By reducing these nutrients, you can reduce or stop the excess growth of plants, thus staving off oxygen depletion in the lake.

Dredging helps create and maintain a healthy ecosystem in lakes, making them safer and more enjoyable for recreation as well as maintaining their aesthetic appeal. Dredging has numerous environmental benefits, such as:

Given that dredging lakes is one of the costliest and most invasive freshwater management projects your lake or pond will ever face, it’s wise to first consider hydro-raking and biological lake dredging as an alternative to traditionally dredging lakes. In many lakes and ponds, sediments are composed of organic materials that can be degraded onsite or consumed underwater using these strategies, which are often lower in cost than a permitted dredging project.

Your waterbody may benefit significantly from a full-scale lake dredging operation, or just a few days of budget-friendly spot dredging at pump intakes, swimming areas or around boat docks. Lake and Wetland Management offers ways to dredge muck, silt, and sediment without harming the environment.

Call 855-888-LAKE or contact us to get a free quote today!