GOSHEN — Goshen Dam Pond looks a lot different than it did just a few decades ago.
Thick beds of lily pads and aquatic weeds blanket large sections of the pond. Bushes of purple loosestrife, an invasive plant, have formed small islands in the water. And layer by layer, silt has built up below the pond’s surface.
“It’s almost like the pond is getting smaller and smaller,” Milt Thomas said, navigating the pond in a pontoon boat. “It’s only a matter of time before the weeds fill it all in. A lot of this wasn’t here just over 20 years ago.”
Thomas lives near the pond and is vice president of the Elkhart River Restoration Association. The group is exploring ways to clean up a 100-acre area of the pond that stretches from the C.R. 38 bridge to the dam. Removing silt and clearing the water of plants could open up the pond to more recreational activities like boating and fishing, Thomas said.
There are challenges that come with cleaning the pond, ERRA president David Troup pointed out. For example, there needs to be a balance between the water’s recreational use and preservation of habitats for fish and other wildlife, he said.
Doug Nusbaum, who works for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, noted that sediment is the top contaminant in water bodies across the state.
“As we see more development upstream and more soil loss, we are seeing more detriment to the water bodies like Goshen Pond, which does affect the aquatic organisms and anything from the crayfish to the game species, the bass and bluegill that people like to fish for, and turtles,” said Nusbaum, a lake and river enhancement specialist.
Nusbaum boarded a boat last week with Troup and a group of environmental consultants to study the pond. They used a long, steel pole to test the depth of the silt and a pipe to collect samples from the bottom of the pond. First, they tested a spot near the pond’s island.
“There’s a lot of plant material,” Troup said, describing the silt’s consistency. “There’s no sand, which they were happy about because sand is hard to move and hard to dredge. This is just kind of a mucky material, and it’s easier for them to pump.”
At a second location closer to the dam, the consultants discovered that the silt was drier and more dense. Their tests will help the ERRA determine how much silt and plant life to remove from the water and how to go about doing it, Thomas said.
The ERRA will first apply with the DNR for funding for the cleanup project and keep an eye out for other sources in the meantime, Thomas said.
“It’s kind of a scatter approach,” he added.
The total cost will be dictated by the scope of the project, said Thomas, who noted that it will take about $20,000 just to write the grant proposal, which includes hiring consultants, water studies and securing permits among other steps.
The ERRA raised money for the sediment removal project in June. The group auctioned off hand-painted rain barrels and raised close to $9,500, some of which went back to the artists who decorated the barrels. The group has also received a $7,500 DNR grant that must be used by early 2014.
Though he won’t have an estimate until the group figures out how much work needs to be done, Troup said the project will require far more funding than the ERRA has right now. Troup has submitted a request for proposals to 14 organizations to develop a plan for the pond project. He hopes to have a first draft of the plan by the end of this year or early 2013.
“The pond’s health does have some issues from the amount of vegetation that’s growing in it and the amount of silt, so at some point it’s not going to really be a pond if more and more of these little islands crop up,” Troup said. “It would kind of eliminate the recreational aspect. This needs to be done, and it needs to be done right.”