Monday, January 14, 2019

West Marsh Water Conveyance: Project Update #13 (And the Joy of Daily Photographs)

It took Roy a 75-yard "military crawl" along a dike and a one hour sit in fading light to capture all these puddle ducks
at close enough range to yield decent photographs (as always, click to enlarge)

Last week marked another largely spent at my desk. End-of-year accounting, 2019 forecasting and planning, and some outings for and to Toledo Public Schools made for another "eye blink" Monday through Friday. The federal shutdown -- which probably justifies its own post because of how it is now impacting Standing Rush -- has added some unforeseen challenges to the New Year, but as the photos herein demonstrate, life most certainly goes on in the marsh.

A Cedar Waxwing conceals much of its vibrant
color behind the shadow of a dead ash tree;
even in the shade, an impressive bird
The daily phone call, email, and text updates that I receive from Roy are critical to my ability to stay connected, but the photos that he forwards have become not only a routine highlight of my day, but also a visual lifeline. Photos are certainly not the same thing as experiencing first-hand, but as this blog can hopefully attest, they really help offer a taste of all that is happening -- even as ice and snow wrestle to put the marsh into a state of relative dormancy.

Many of the common creatures of winter on the lakeshore -- from eagles and waterfowl to cardinals and white-tailed deer -- as well as some of the less common ones (e.g., red fox, coyote, mink . . .) flash in and out of my subconscious on a regular basis when I'm working at my desk. But the images that Roy passes to me (many of the best which I then pass to you) help to solidify in my mind some of what I am missing while I am away from the property.

And then there are the update photos from improvement projects -- which also help to fill in the visual blanks. The series below shows this week's highlights: (1) removing the bayfront cofferdam that temporarily held water out while the new West Pump structure was constructed and (2) installation of the new electrical service in preparation for the new pump.

Following the removal of the earthen cofferdam (remnant visible on the lower right), Jason and crew had to remove the
temporary sheet pile that has helped keep the construction site free of bay water since late August
Shiny and new; a far cry from the 50+ yr old
equipment we've been relying on
While the real money shot will be from above -- hopefully via my new "hobby" drone -- (to show the entire structure with water in the entire channel), I am waiting to share that until the pump is installed. Before that can happen, the electricians needed to make sure we were all ready from a utilities perspective. That work seems to be just about completed, so we're hopeful that the pump can be placed this week.

We have not been able to remove water from this location since the old pump was pulled in early September. There have been a decent number of decent rains since then.

Our only other option is to gravity drain water from more than 185 acres through a 24" pipe that connects directly to the bay on our southwest corner. The challenge there is we need sustained west winds to drop bay levels enough to do so, and that has been a pretty hit-or-miss proposition lately. We aren't desperate to take out water, but we certainly don't need any more. A solid free these last few days will help reduce the risk from erosion. Now we just need to take a foot of water off to reduce the stress on the emergent vegetation. (While water depth tolerances are species-specific, most do better with more leaf area out of the water than under the water -- even in winter.)

Pump pit awaiting new pump -- shouldn't be long now!
Numbers can be deceiving when ducks are relaxed, snoozing and feeding in winter afternoon sun within the marsh
(click to enlarge); note splash in center of image
This close-up was taken from 750-800' away (based on Google Earth) -- not bad for a $500 camera!
(click to enlarge); note water coming off drake mallard's head on lower right
Roy estimates the total number of ducks coming and going from the West Marsh in this flock at somewhere around 2,000;
this image captures about 200 of them