As noted a few posts ago, grant season is among us. It is very common that lake districts, improvement associations, and individual property owners seek out funding assistance for a wide variety of projects that can help improve conditions within lakes, wetlands, and streams for water quality, navigation, flood control, and aesthetic appeal among other things. The one thing that grants however do not consistently funding is dredging projects.
Why is that someone might ask? The simple answer, although it never appears to be a simple answer from the regulatory end, is that dredging is often categorized as a maintenance item. While it can certainly be debated on both sides the fact stands in most cases dredging does not have a taxpayer based funding mechanism.
In a sense it is understandable that a process that is so heavily driven by healthy watershed practices be addressed at that level; and furthermore the necessity to appropriately and proactively consider the implications of sediment delivery mechanisms before addressing in lake issues. Grants can be obtained for this. It becomes a simple discussion of addressing a symptom and not the cause. Dredging is a snapshot in time, in which that snapshot begins to deteriorate the moment the contractor leaves the site. The rate of deterioration is further dictated by the practices in place on the ground to combat runoff and sedimentation. Most agencies would rather see money put towards these practices to address the issue at the point of attack rather than once the material is in the water.
So facilitating the cost of dredging is a tricky situation. Good consultation can often help in mitigating or controlling costs, but it often estimated that the cost to remove sediment from the water is nearly 6X the cost it is to attack it on land. Pair this with the fact that so many view dredging as some “big fix” when it is really only a temporary reprieve. There is money available for better shoreline practices, buffer establishment, runoff control practices, and land preservation/protection. The State of WI sees this as the better immediate value and they are not alone in this perspective.