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Dredging at Bill's Bay Marina a success

An excavator arm plunges into the water to scoop sediment from the bottom of Bill's Bay Marina in a process known as dredging. Over nearly two weeks, crews extracted more than 16,000 cubic yards of the sloppy material from the bay. -- photo by Michael Brun/Republican Eagle1 / 2
A truck empties a load of sediment into the city's designated dredging dumpsite on Levee Road. When combined with black dirt, the sediment makes for fertile topsoil, officials said. -- photo by Michael Brun/Republican Eagle2 / 2

Dredging waterways is a dirty, expensive and altogether laborious job, but eventually it needs to get done.

"We had to do it to make it better for boaters," said Bill Nafe, president of Bill's Bay Marina in Red Wing. "Now we have the deepest and cleanest marina in the area."

For nearly two weeks crews worked 10-hour shifts to remove more than 16,000 cubic yards of underwater sediment and debris from Nafe's marina at Colvill Park. Much of it will end up being used by the city of Red Wing.

"We take the dredged material and blend it with black dirt to create really good topsoil," said Lynn Nardinger, deputy director of Public Works' Public Services division.

"It's so fertile that grass starts to grow on it before they can even get to the dumpsite," Nafe joked.

Sandy material dredged from the bay can also be used in city construction projects like laying pipe, Nardinger added.

Nafe hired St. Paul-based Portable Barge Service, one of only a handful of companies offering dredging services in the area, to complete the project.

Portable Barge used an excavator parked on a floating platform to scoop the dark, waterlogged sediment out of the bay and load it onto barges.

Once full, the barges were towed to a bulkhead at Bay Point Park and unloaded onto trucks. The trucks then made a short trip north to the city's designated dredging dumpsite on Levee Road.

Periodic dredging becomes necessary when upstream flooding strips away topsoil and deposits it in bays and harbors like Colvill. Over time, deposits build up and make water navigation difficult.

Heavy rain over the past few years and low water levels near the bay have made navigation especially challenging, Nardinger said.

Planning to dredge Bill's Bay Marina began last fall and included getting a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to ensure the project did not negatively affect the bay's ecosystem, Nafe said.

The project was originally intended to get under way in March, but the cold spring pushed it back, he said.

The city has no plans to dredge nearby Ole Miss Marina in the near future, Nardinger said, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to dredge the Mississippi River's main channel near Red Wing sometime this summer.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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