Smith to Dredge Without Draining the Campus Pond
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – As it does periodically, Smith College will soon launch an intensive process to dredge the 16-acre campus pond of sediment that regularly builds up, threatening to fill it in.
But for the first time in Smith’s history, the process will not require draining Paradise Pond to remove the material. The work will be completed through an innovative and environmentally friendly method called hydraulic dredging.
Under the new method, wildlife that inhabits the pond, such as turtles and fish, will not be disrupted during the work. Further, the method will avoid the inadvertent release of sediment downstream.
The project will be conducted by WeCare Organics, LLC, a national company that maintains a local office in Easthampton, and will remove an estimated 14,000 cubic yards of sediment from the pond bottom. Work is scheduled to begin at the end of May and continue until the last week in August.
When it is completed, the pond bottom will have a minimum depth of five feet below the surface of the water. Currently the pond bottom ranges from above-water sandbars to the lowest point of 16 feet below the water surface.
Hydraulic dredging entails vacuuming up sediment from the pond bottom and pumping it onto land where the water is drained off. The dredge, a barge-like ship floating on the water and rooted to a spot by four pillars, will perform the vacuuming.
The material that is vacuumed up will be pumped into Geotubes – essentially large socks – that will capture and contain the sediment while releasing clean water back into the pond. After drying out, the sediment will be hauled away on trucks.
The Geotubes – each about 25 feet wide and 125 feet long – will be situated on the softball field on the bank opposite the Smith College boathouse.
Paradise Pond has been historically dredged every eight years; the last time was in 1998.
Transported from upstream by the Mill River, sediment naturally builds up over time. If the pond were not regularly dredged, it would eventually fill in with sediment except for the natural channel through which the Mill River would flow.
The 300-year-old manmade water body was initially created in order to power grist and saw mills downriver. With the pond, the mills could, in essence, store up their power source for times of the year when the river was not flowing quickly enough to power their operations.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, dredging hydraulically will allow for continued recreational and instructional use by kayakers and canoers throughout the summer.
The dredging operation will be conducted from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.