Dredging Design, Project Management and Permitting

Dredging is typically one of the more polarizing topics in lake management, but the need to remove excess silt from a pond or lake bottom isn’t necessarily something new.  These areas serve as local or regional collection areas for sediment, woody debris, dead vegetation, and various other biomass.  With the sediment comes various sources of nutrients, nuisance algae response, localized lake shallowing, and any other number of unwanted lake conditions.  Dealing with the situation correctly and cost effectively are important factors in getting the job done correctly and completely.

Too often we see HOAs, lake groups or associations, lake districts or other entities undertake a dredging project with the best of intentions only to have it incorrectly scoped from the start and “run out of money” before making any headway.  It is important to understand where the message is coming from and not put the cart before the horse.  Anyone can excavate and haul material.  It’s not a particular skill or trade.  Over 50% of dredging projects are undertaken and initially scoped by contractors and another 30% are scoped by unqualified firms or consultants.  This bleeds the project budget and leads to a poorly conceived project from the start, especially when under-qualified consultants and contractors realize the depth and specialty needed in engineering and permitting such a project.

Dredging projects should typically begin with a Request for Proposals (RFQ) or a referral.  When the contractor costs can vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars (if the project is large), it’s important to make the right investment upfront.  Having someone knowledgeable to assist with the scoping of the project is valuable. WDNR staff also have resources available to help you in your decision making process.

Prior to devoting resources to a dredging project it may be useful to sit back and ask yourself (and team) the following questions:

  • Have we considered alternatives to dredging?
  • Can we afford to be dredging?
  • what will the dredging solve?
  • Do we truly understand the scope?