By Ken Jones, Project Manager
7/24/20—Summer water levels are dropping as anticipated and the project team is preparing to begin the survey and data collection phase of the Slough Restoration Project. Hurricane Michael not only wreaked havoc along the coast, but also devastated the timber industry in the Apalachicola Basin. Natural areas were not immune to the impacts of this storm. Fallen trees within the floodplain pose significant logistical issues related to conducting the surveys and ultimately the sediment removal in the project’s three sloughs, Spiders Cut, Douglas Slough and East River.
The water has dropped below 12,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) in the Apalachicola River, meaning the water is within the banks and we can see where the deposits of sand are located. We are beginning to see how significantly the fallen trees have impacted the area. Removal strategies will be developed. We are also trying to find routes where we can optimize the excavation work to provide the greatest positive impact for increasing flows during low river periods.
There are many more trees that have fallen across the sloughs, impacting our ability to move throughout them. The swamp even looks different as areas have been opened to the sun and understory plants are growing head high where there use to be open walking areas. Machetes and chainsaws are needed to create pathways to traverse the sloughs. In the long run this may impact the way that sediments are excavated within the banks to get free flowing water down the sloughs and into the floodplains again.
We have contracted with local guides for short trips into Spiders Cut. Their lifetime of knowledge is invaluable. For example, on this trip we discussed how the slough moves water back to the swamps a mile or so in from the mouth of the Chipola River.
Recon (short for reconnaissance) trips are twofold. These site visits educate us on the system and set the stage for our team kick-off field trips to each location. The project team will meet on-site in August.
In September, we will begin the work of setting up water quality stations, cutting transects through the swamp and initiating the engineering surveys and sediment cores to characterize the material in the slough. This fall we will initiate most of the steps required to get to a contract to excavate the sloughs.