A dredging project mainly geared to freeing up storage capacity for Lake Lanier is mostly finished at Lula Park in northeast Hall.
The boat ramp used most by the public at the park “is back open with the channel being dug there from the end of the boat ramp to the end of the main (Chattahoochee) river channel,” said Chief Ranger Craig Sowers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The corps contracted with River Sand Inc. of Cleveland to remove 3,000 tons of sediment from the waters around the ramp. The park is off Ga. 52/Lula between Glade Farm Road and Ga. 365.
Work started in the fall, when the lake’s elevation had dropped to 1,057.91 feet below sea level. The lake’s winter full pool is 1,070 feet and the level on Wednesday was 1,065.59 feet.
In January, as River Sand began hauling away the silt, the lake sat at 1,060.64 feet, with Sowers saying that the corps needed the channel to refill about 5 feet for the ramp to reopen.
Winter rains helped raise the level and otherwise reverse what had been a downward trend.
The project began taking shape 10 years ago, when the corps began noticing the silt buildup. The ramp had to be closed during periods of low elevation.
As for causes of the buildup, “it is a natural event of all lake systems,” Sowers said.
But also the problem could stem from “any type of land development or clearing, anything that would remove vegetation and expose soil,” he added.
Through the completion of the project, “we have gained 3 to 4 feet of usable depth out of what was dug,” Sowers said.
John Bryant, River Sand’s vice president of business development, said, “We’re kind of excited about it, because we have a lot of our local fishermen stop by — they see us working on the river anyway — and we’re able to help them out.”
Before the dredging, “you had to walk your boat about a hundred yards to get into the water,” he said. “Now the water is back up at the ramp ... but it’s also given them a few more feet for their (propellers).”
The project has “all-around benefits — for the lake, the users, and for us and the corps,” Bryant said. “That’s what’s neat about it.”
The corps sold River Sand the right to dig out sediment, mostly sand, which, in turn, the
company can sell for a profit, Sowers said.
Its contract with River Sand calls for further dredging as silt buildup returns, with work extending potentially 15 years.
“The requirement is to go back in there every other year and dredge as much as they’ve dredged this time, again,” Sowers said.
“From the channel they dredged this year, they’ll probably go back in and take some material that washed back in there and keep making that channel larger and larger,” he said.
“There’s enough material out there that we could dredge just in that location every year for the next 15 years and not get it all,” Sowers said.
The park has a second boat ramp that “is silted in and is no longer functional,” he said. “Subsequent dredges ... will go back toward that second ramp.”
Ironically, continued dredging relies on the water elevation dropping.
“We don’t really want to do (the work) with the lake up, unless they bring in a different type of equipment,” Sowers said.