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Cow Creek first-phase dredging complete

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The first round of dredging in Sarnia’s Cow Creek earlier this month turned up more sediment than the city’s construction manager says he was expecting.

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How much exactly came out of the recently clogged creek wasn’t clear, said Rob Williams, but he called it “a tremendous amount.”

The Van Bree Drainage and Bulldozing dredging July 5-8 – approved by city council in late May – took the creek’s depth to about two meters, he said.

Where a makeshift campsite had been recently pitched on a mass of sand that had washed in, now, Williams said, boats can access the passage in the city’s northwest that connects to Lake Huron and several say provides shelter for vessels when stormy conditions on the lake threaten.

A pile of the removed material is sitting on city property west of the creek, with plans once government permits are hopefully granted in the fall to add it back into the lake and build adjacent beaches. It’s unclear how much material was taken out, Williams said, but added it was around twice what he was expecting.

Testing so far has shown the sand is uncontaminated and so doesn’t need to be trucked elsewhere, Williams said.

“So we have no concerns,” he said. “We’re proceeding with that permitting.”

The reason to dredge the creek bed lower – another 1.3 metres could be planned in the fall – is for when water levels, currently near all-time highs in Lake Huron, eventually again fall, Williams said.

“From all-time highs to the lows, there’s over two meters of difference in the lake levels,” he said.

So boats could bottom out again without more depth, he said.

“We’d be looking at something more like 10 feet (three metres) from our current level, which should offer three or four feet (90 centimetres to 1.2 metres) of draft in low water levels,” he said.

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Sarnia approved $50,000 for studies and assessment late last year, and that’s about covered this month’s dredging, an emergency partial dredge in January when a sandbar blocked the creek and posed a flood risk, and the work done to date by consultant Shoreplan Engineering, Williams said.

Another $300,000 has been approved for the rest of the project.

Armour stone has also been added to the eastern side of the creek where it meets the lake, in the hopes of blocking some of the sand from coming in, Williams said.

It’s believed high water levels have been pushing sand over barriers and into the waterway and that the problem may cease when water levels drop again.

More armour stone could also be added to bolster the guard in the future, Williams said.

A yearly assessment of the creek to see if dredging is needed is also being considered.

“We’re I think never going to want to let it get that bad again,” Williams said.

Boaters need to continue to be careful, he said, as the first round of dredging couldn’t reach a sandbar underneath the Old Lakeshore Road bridge on the west side of the creek.

Plans are to tackle that as well in the fall, he said.

Meanwhile, boaters are advised there’s only space for one-way traffic when passing under the bridge.

“All boat operators and mariners need to be responsible and aware of their surroundings,” Williams said. “As conditions in the creek are fairly dynamic, that could change with weather.”

tkula@postmedia.com

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