Friday, June 17, 2016

Fill 'er up

It's the natural course of things that if you have a body of water with little current, it's going to fill in with silt in some places. Such is the course of events at Harris Riverfront Park here at Huntington WV.

The other day I was in town to do an interview for an article in The State Journal. As I tend to do, I went down to the park to see if anything was happening on the river. Off to my left while standing at the boat ramp I saw what looked like mud sticking out of the water where pleasure boats are supposed to tie up. No, I thought, that's just small pieces of drift gathering no. On third thought, no, that's mud.

Indeed it was. Last fall some people on a boat told me they could not tie up at the upper end of the park because it had filled in. About an hour before that, I had noticed the water there was unusually shallow. A few years ago, I saw a Coast Guard buoy tender trying to tie at this spot for the night. There were guys on the side of the boat with poles to see if the water was deep enough. The next year when they were up there, they tied up farther down, at a newer area for large boats.

Here you can see the kevels or H-bits or whatever these things are called for you to tie up to if the water is deep enough.

And this being the middle part of the Ohio River, you can't have dirt sticking out of water without a beverage container on it.

At this part of the park, the boat ramp immediately upstream sticks out into the river, creating an area of low current, allowing the river to drop its sediment load here. Also, this part of the park is under water several times a year. When it's cleaned, it's often with people using fire hoses who blast the sediment back into the river.

Later in the morning, I asked someone about the siltation here and he said that should be taken care of when Superior Marine of South Point OH and the city of Huntington embark on their park redevelopment project. Such plans have yet to be announced, but it makes sense that you would not spend a lot of money on dredging now if someone else is going to do it again soon.

The thing is, Harris Riverfront Park opened in the early 1980s. It was the prototype for several parks in this area. I wonder how many of them have or will have similar problems, where you want a place for pleasure boats to visit but you don't have the money to keep the river bottom from rising.