Sep 302011
 

Dateline – June 22, 2008

Woodlake Pond in Carrollton, TX is, depending upon how you look at things , either a small lake or a relatively large pond. And, while I’m not sure exactly how such distinctions are made by the experts, I do suspect that the lake/pond ambiguity may best explain the strange juxtaposition of the two words in the place’s name.

Before the Dredging - Like most urban water ways and ponds the waters of Woodlake Pond are not safe for swimming.

Before the Dredging – Like most urban water ways and ponds the waters of Woodlake Pond are not safe for swimming.

Woodlake Pond and the surrounding parkland are a part of the City of Carrollton’s greenbelt system. The lake is man-made, and has been around since at least the mid 1980’s (and probably much longer). It is located on the southeast quadrant of the Josey Lane – Peter’s Colony Blvd intersection in the north-central part of the city.

The lake is fed by Furneaux Creek, and is contained by a small earthen dam that runs for a couple of hundred yards along the pond’s southern end. A concrete spillway controls the lake’s water level by returning the overflow back into Furneaux Creek as it continues to make its way on to the Trinity River just a few miles to the west.

Woodlake Pond has been important to me for many years now, mainly because of the large number and wide variety of waterfowl and other urban wildlife that are attracted to its waters. At one time or the other I have observed Mallards, American Coots, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, American White Pelicans, Ring-billed Gulls, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Red-tailed Hawks, Willets, Nutria, Red-eared Sliders, Carp, and various pan fish. Further, most of these animals are well acclimated to the presence of people, a fact that makes them unusually amenable to observation.

Before the Dredging - Great-tailed Grackles in the shallow water of the pond's north end.

Before the Dredging – Great-tailed Grackles in the shallow water of the pond’s north end.

Before the Dredging - A Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret in close proximity.

Before the Dredging – A Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret in close proximity.

Before the Dredging - A collection of Double-crested Cormorants. This submerged tree is the only place on the lake where the cormorants would congregate. It would not survive the dredging.

Before the Dredging – A collection of Double-crested Cormorants. This submerged tree is the only place on the lake where the cormorants would congregate. It would not survive the dredging.

Before the Dredging - Represented in this photograph are Ring-billed Gulls, American Coots, and Lesser Scaups.

Before the Dredging – Represented in this photograph are Ring-billed Gulls, American Coots, and Lesser Scaups.

Before the Dredging - American White Pelicans. Note the single individual standing in ankle deep water near the pond's center, as well as three more pelicans swimming by in the distance.

Before the Dredging – American White Pelicans. Note the single individual standing in ankle deep water near the pond’s center, as well as three more pelicans swimming by in the distance.

Before the Dredging - A hungry Nutria feeding on reeds.

Before the Dredging – A hungry Nutria feeding on reeds.

Before the Dredging - A Great Blue Heron making its way through the shallow water near the center of the lake.

Before the Dredging – A Great Blue Heron making its way through the shallow water near the center of the lake.

Before the Dredging - Ring-billed Gulls apparently standing on the surface of the lake water. Yes, the water really was that shallow!

Before the Dredging – Ring-billed Gulls apparently standing on the surface of the lake water. Yes, the water really was that shallow!

Before the Dredging - Willets. A rare, migratory visitor to Woodlake Pond.

Before the Dredging – Willets. A rare, migratory visitor to Woodlake Pond.

Before the Dredging - A great Egret standing in water that is only a few inches deep.

Before the Dredging – A great Egret standing in water that is only a few inches deep.

The lake has long been a great habitat for these animals, as well as a nice area for simple recreation, but in recent years it had become more and more evident that there was a serious problem developing at Woodlake Pond.

The waters of Woodlake Pond have been, for as long as I can remember, extremely shallow. I can still remember how surprised I was the first time I observed a Great Blue Heron standing in only ankle deep water somewhere near the center of the pond. And over the years, sediment carried into Woodlake Pond by Furneaux Creek had accumulated to the point where it was beginning to choke off the lake.

According to the City of Carrollton’s web site, a study of the lake’s condition revealed that if something was not done to rectify the situation, the lake would soon fill with accumulated silt, transforming the pond into a marsh, and likely making the area largely unsuitable for the wide variety of wildlife it currently supported.

In 2004, possibly in an effort to avoid the even more confusing name of Woodlake Pond Marsh, Carrollton voters approved $2.25 million for dredging operations. Shortly afterwards the environmental impact analysis and design work began.

Dredging Equipment - The earth moving equipment used for the dredging operation was unusual. Notice the over-sized treads on this earth-mover. No doubt the large treads acted as pontoons to help keep the machine afloat while working in areas of accumulated silt.

Dredging Equipment – The earth moving equipment used for the dredging operation was unusual. Notice the over-sized treads on this earth-mover. No doubt the large treads acted as pontoons to help keep the machine afloat while working in areas of accumulated silt.

Dredging Equipment - More earth moving equipment used in the operation. Not shown here is an air-boat which was used to push water over the spillway after Furneaux Creek had been diverted. The air-boat was effective in assisting with the draining of the lake, but heavy and repeated rains that summer quickly filled the lake back up time and again.

Dredging Equipment – More earth moving equipment used in the operation. Not shown here is an air-boat which was used to push water over the spillway after Furneaux Creek had been diverted. The air-boat was effective in assisting with the draining of the lake, but heavy and repeated rains that summer quickly filled the lake back up time and again.

The actual dredging work began in the spring of 2007, and this is when I first became aware of the project. Unfortunately it took me several more months to arrive at the idea that documenting the dredging operation might make an interesting article for my website. And as a consequence, I didn’t start recording photographs, etc until the work was nearly complete.

I really wish I had been more on the ball with this, and I am disappointed that I was unable to to a more thorough job of recording the project’s progress. Nonetheless, I was still able to take a few interesting pictures of the work in progress. And going back to my pre-dredging photograph archive,has allowed me to put together some telling before-and-after shots.

During Dredging - The dry lake bed before dredging began.

During Dredging – The dry lake bed before dredging began.

During Dredging - A view of the lake from the south, looking over the long earthen dam. The lake had been drained as part of the dredging operations, but it is partially filled with collected rain water in this picture.

During Dredging – A view of the lake from the south, looking over the long earthen dam. The lake had been drained as part of the dredging operations, but it is partially filled with collected rain water in this picture.

During Dredging - Furneaux Creek, just around the bend from the concrete spillway.

During Dredging – Furneaux Creek, just around the bend from the concrete spillway.

During Dredging - Another shot of the mostly drained lake, this time from near the north end.

During Dredging – Another shot of the mostly drained lake, this time from near the north end.

During Dredging - The dredging is mostly complete in this picture. Judging from the slope of the bank, the lake will be anywhere from 6 to 10 ft/2 to 3m deep once it is refilled.

During Dredging – The dredging is mostly complete in this picture. Judging from the slope of the bank, the lake will be anywhere from 6 to 10 ft/2 to 3m deep once it is refilled.

During Dredging - The lake slowly filling after the dredging efforts completed.

During Dredging – The lake slowly filling after the dredging efforts completed.

During Dredging - A good view of the extent of the dredging. Before dredging the depth of the water in this part of the lake was hardly more than a few inches/centimeters. Once filled, the lake here will be 4 to 6ft/1 to 2m deep. Note the flat bottom and steep sides.

During Dredging – A good view of the extent of the dredging. Before dredging the depth of the water in this part of the lake was hardly more than a few inches/centimeters. Once filled, the lake here will be 4 to 6ft/1 to 2m deep. Note the flat bottom and steep sides.

During Dredging - Another view of the filling lake. Notice the tire and tread tracks left in the muddy bottom.

During Dredging – Another view of the filling lake. Notice the tire and tread tracks left in the muddy bottom.

During Dredging - This picture was taken at the north end of the lake, very near place where it is fed by Furneaux Creek.

During Dredging – This picture was taken at the north end of the lake, very near place where it is fed by Furneaux Creek.

During Dredging - Note the steep banks left by the dredging activities. Dangerous for park visitors?

During Dredging – Note the steep banks left by the dredging activities. Dangerous for park visitors?

During Dredging - This is the route taken by trucks carrying the sediment out of the lake. The sediment was dumped in the grassy floodplain leading up to the lake. Note the heavy earth-moving equipment in the background.

During Dredging – This is the route taken by trucks carrying the sediment out of the lake. The sediment was dumped in the grassy floodplain leading up to the lake. Note the heavy earth-moving equipment in the background.

During Dredging - Another look at the route out of the lake—this time from the opposite side.

During Dredging – Another look at the route out of the lake—this time from the opposite side.

During Dredging - This is Furneaux Creek at the point where it empties into the lake.

During Dredging – This is Furneaux Creek at the point where it empties into the lake.

During Dredging - Another view of Furneaux Creek, a little further upstream this time. It was necessary to divert the flow of this creek during the dredging activities. This was accomplished by cutting a channel along the east side of the lake, thereby allowing the creek to bypass the the lake bed, and flow directly over the spillway instead. I'm not sure how they merged the cut channel back into the lake proper, but I would have liked to have seen it done!

During Dredging – Another view of Furneaux Creek, a little further upstream this time. It was necessary to divert the flow of this creek during the dredging activities. This was accomplished by cutting a channel along the east side of the lake, thereby allowing the creek to bypass the the lake bed, and flow directly over the spillway instead. I’m not sure how they merged the cut channel back into the lake proper, but I would have liked to have seen it done!

During Dredging - In this picture a bulldozer is spreading the dumped sediment over the floodplain leading up to the lake.

During Dredging – In this picture a bulldozer is spreading the dumped sediment over the floodplain leading up to the lake.

During Dredging - A view of Furneaux Creek as it cuts through the floodplain leading up to Woodlake Pond. Note the dredged sediment spread over the field to the left.

During Dredging – A view of Furneaux Creek as it cuts through the floodplain leading up to Woodlake Pond. Note the dredged sediment spread over the field to the left.

During Dredging - The concrete spillway located at the south end of the lake.

During Dredging – The concrete spillway located at the south end of the lake.

During Dredging - Furneaux Creek flowing away from the lake after pouring over the spillway.

During Dredging – Furneaux Creek flowing away from the lake after pouring over the spillway.

During Dredging - The backside of the spillway just before the lake refilled.

During Dredging – The backside of the spillway just before the lake refilled.

During Dredging - The refilling process took several weeks.

During Dredging – The refilling process took several weeks.

During Dredging - Furneaux Creek emptying into the lake.

During Dredging – Furneaux Creek emptying into the lake.

During Dredging - Filling up.

During Dredging – Filling up.

After the dredging work was completed, the lake/pond quickly filled up once again. The water was deep, fresh, and clean, but something very important was missing—the birds. Today, the few water fowl that remain are mostly Mallards and Mallard hybrids. Gone are the American Coots, the Ring-billed Gulls, The Double-crested Cormorants, and a number of other rarely observed species.

It is not clear to me whether it was the dredging activities, or the resulting change in habitat caused by the deeper water (or a combination of both factors) that drove the birds off. My hope is that their absence is not permanent, and that one day the birds will return to Woodlake Pond. Only time will tell.

June 22, 2008 – After the Dredging – Where have all the birds gone?

June 22, 2008 – After the Dredging – Where have all the birds gone?

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