Dredging will soon begin at the Barnett Reservoir to reestablish boat channels in various areas of the lake.
Taking place predominantly in Pelahatchie Bay with nearly all boating channels being dredged out, the dredging project will allow easier access for recreational boaters and fishermen. It will also reestablish access to the lake for residents of lakefront properties. The dredging will also occur in the channels around Overlook Pointe, the Jackson Yacht Club area and Twin Harbors.
“Right now, there are a lot of people who have lakefront property but their lakefront may only have a foot and a half or two feet of water in the summertime,” Chief Engineer at Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (PRVWSD) Mark Beyea said. “They have a lakefront and they may have a boat house, but they can’t get a boat in or out of their boat house because there’s not enough water.”
Beyea said the shallow water along the lakefront properties wasn’t like that when the reservoir was originally constructed. At that time, there was enough water there. However, the lake has silted in over time, particularly in the upper ends of the channels where there has been runoff from construction sites. As areas along Lakeland Drive were developed, silt from construction sites washed into the creeks and ended up in the reservoir.
When there is dredging, the contractor essentially vacuums up the sediment from the bottom of the lake to reestablish and deepen the channels. The sediment and water that is dredged up must be disposed of in contained ponds called contained disposal facilities.
“You can’t just spray it into another part of the lake,” Beyea said. “You have to actually take it out of the lake and put it in a pond that has been constructed to contain the water and the silt until the majority of the sediment drops out of the water and the water that goes back into the lake is clean.”
Residents may notice burning in some of the wooded areas along the Spillway. This comes from the contractor needed to dispose of the leftover timber that was cut to make room to construct the contained ponds. PRVWSD staff will be monitoring the site preparations.
The dredging will affect boat traffic in the area as the dredge will be on a barge with the pumps and other equipment necessary. From the barge, the sediment and water that is brought up will be pumped to the disposal areas through a long floating pipeline.
“There will be areas where boats will have to cross the pipeline only at certain spots where they’ll actually sink the pipeline down for a 50 or 60 foot opening so that boat traffic can pass,” Beyea said. “It will impede boat traffic in some areas, but it shouldn’t ever prevent boat traffic. Boats will have to find their ways to the crossings on the pipeline.”
When the dredging begins, the contractor will post signs at all the boat ramps. Their floating pipelines will be equipped with lights and signs indicating the pipeline is present and where the crossings are. This will ensure boats do not run up onto the pipeline.
“Boaters will need to be aware and beware once the dredging starts that there is stuff in the water that is not normally there,” Beyea said. “They need to look out for the lights and signs and be a little more careful than they normally are.”
The project was slightly delayed when the hired contractor’s current projects along this Mississippi Coast were impacted by Hurricane Ida causing a delay. However, the contractor will be moving his equipment from the coast to the reservoir mid-December. The contractor is expected to arrive and begin dredging after the first of the year.
The project is estimated to take a year to complete in its entirety as it covers about 190,000 cubic yards of material that must be removed from the lake and placed in the ponds. In addition to the vastness of the project, because of the overall shallowness of the reservoir, the dredge equipment that can be used is on the very smallest end of dredge equipment.
“The project includes almost all the channels in Pelahatchie Bay, which is a lot,” Beyea said. “We can’t bring a giant dredge in here, because we just don’t have enough water for it to float in. The smaller dredging equipment takes longer to move all that material.”