GOSHEN — Dredging now at Goshen Dam Pond could mean less work later, according to a group that has been working upriver to prevent additional sediment from flowing into the pond.
The Elkhart River Restoration Association, or ERRA, is rallying support and raising money for a $2 million project that would remove sediment and invasive plants from the pond on Goshen's south side. The group's first stop was the Elkhart County Stormwater Management Board's monthly meeting in October where $750,000 was requested for the dredging project, but board members were hesitant to shell out the full amount.
Members of the county's stormwater board explained at the meeting that they would be more likely to support a smaller contribution that matches donations from property owners around the pond.
“From the feedback at that meeting, we felt like we needed to make it better known that the pond is used by a lot more people than just the local pond residents,” ERRA president David Troup said. “This resource has been around for 150-plus years, and there is an awful lot of boaters, fisherman, kayakers and canoers that use the pond.”
However, ERRA vice president Milt Thomas said fewer and fewer people are using the pond for recreation because of the water's shallow depth. Purple loosestrife plants have also taken over parts of the pond, forming islands in the water.
“It's taken 100 years to fill this in,” Thomas said. “If we wait another 20 or 25 years, most of what is covered in weeds right now is going to be like land.”
Sheri Howland, superintendent at the Goshen Park and Recreation Department, said the invasive plants have made their way into the Millrace Canal, which is maintained by the city. Dredging, she said, could also prevent silt from settling into the curves of the canal.
“Even though we are not directly involved with the dredging project, we would certainly benefit from it with it opening the pond up to additional recreational opportunities as well as enhancement of habitat for aquatic wildlife,” Howland said. “I could see it having a positive impact on the vegetation in the canal by eliminating some of the invasive plants that are found in the pond.”
Thomas estimates that it will cost roughly $50,000 an acre to dredge the pond. The dredging area covers about 34 acres, he said.
The ERRA has secured grants in the past to prevent silt from making its way to the pond from upriver, and the group plans to put more grants to work with the dredging project.
“It's always going to happen, but the more work we do upstream, the slower that should occur,” Troup said. “This pond has been around for 150 years, so any projects that we do now to clean it up in addition to the work upstream should make this dredging project last a long time.”
The ERRA plans to make a second pitch to the county's stormwater board for funding before approaching the Goshen Redevelopment Commission. If the stormwater board decides not to contribute the entire $750,000 requested or votes not to give any funding at all, Thomas said the ERRA would have to scale back its project.