Much like a living organism, lakes and ponds are born, age and die. Many factors, like nutrient levels and runoff, can affect the length of a waterbody’s existence, but the lifespan is considered complete when unconsolidated sediment builds up to the point that it can no longer retain water. While this usually signifies the end of the life cycle, solutions such as hydro-raking can help reduce signs of aging and prolong dredging—potentially one of the costliest expenses a community will ever face. But with the complexities of each individual ecosystem and property, how do you know if hydro-raking is the right lake management solution for you?
A mechanical hydro-rake is a floating pontoon or barge outfitted with a backhoe and rake attachments. The hydro-rake can be used to remove organic matter and unconsolidated sediment in water as shallow as 18 inches and in depths of up to 10 feet deep. Because the hydro-rake works from the water, it can access coves and shoreline areas that are normally unreachable using conventional methods. The hydro-rake gathers up to 500 pounds of debris with each scoop and deposits it on to the shore for disposal. In areas where access to the shoreline is limited, the hydro-rake can be paired with a transporter vessel to contain materials before unloading at a designated location, so property managers can rest assured that this option will have minimal impact on shorelines, helping to preserve the valuable landscapes of lakefront homes, beaches, golf courses and other beautiful properties.
Environmentally-friendly hydro-raking is most useful in lakes and ponds that have collected large amounts of organic muck and debris from things like decaying algae and plant matter, leaves, grass clippings, tree limbs, and more. Waterbodies with large amounts of runoff often contain excessive levels of phosphorous and nitrogen - nutrients that promote the growth of nuisance vegetation and algae blooms. If nuisance rooted vegetation, unconsolidated bottom muck and years of accumulated organic matter are not managed through hydro-raking and other preventative means, the nutrient overload may eventually cause water quality issues that threaten fish and aquatic life, including low dissolved oxygen, foul odors and nuisance algae blooms.
The results of hydro-raking, where vegetation removal is the goal, will vary depending on the types of nuisance vegetation present. Plants with well-developed root systems, like waterlilies and cattails, can be significantly reduced for 2-3 years following a hydro-raking project. Depending on the density, submersed species and plants that reproduce through fragmentation, like fanwort and water milfoil, may be successfully controlled for the length of a summer after hydro-raking, but can be prevented further with the help of a comprehensive management plan that encompasses the introduction of aeration, buffer management, nutrient remediation and targeted herbicide and algaecide treatments, if necessary.
When healthy, native ecosystems are allowed to thrive, many natural problems can begin to take care of themselves. You may see a reduction in algae blooms and find that aquatic weeds are less of a nuisance during recreation and fishing activities. The removal of organic sediment and plant matter can help a waterbody retain more water, preventing overflow and flooding during heavy rains. If introduced and left to grow, native plants will function as beneficial buffers around the edge of the waterbody, stabilizing delicate shorelines with their deep roots and creating habitats for birds, insects and other desirable aquatic life. Further, the improved water depth, water quality and water retention abilities can help extend the lifespan of the lake or pond, and prolong the need for invasive excavation of the waterbody through costly dredging.
While hydro-raking is an incredibly cost- and environmentally-friendly solution for the removal of nuisance vegetation, it is only one piece of a holistic pond management plan, which can provide the most sustainable, professional and long-lasting support for your aging waterbody. With the proper management approaches, you can ensure that when it comes to your lake or pond, age truly is just a number.
Our winter schedule is filling up quickly! Contact us today at 888.840.LAKE to learn if hydro-raking is the right solution for your waterbody.
SOLitude Lake Management is committed to providing