BETWEEN THE LINES - Dredging for fun & profit

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Pshaw! We've been going about this all wrong.

After years of worrying about how to raise money to dredge Storm Lake from reluctant politicians, here comes a study on how to actually make money from sediment.

Money from sediment? Why didn't we think of that. There's a sucker born every minute.

If Michael Jackson can still sell CDs, surely we can sell off a few tens of millions of cubic yards of slime sucked from the bottom of the lake to somebody.

I swear I'm not making this up. Right now soil science researchers are sitting around a lab in Vicksburg, Miss., staring at a mound of spoil pulled out of Iowa's Saylorville Lake, thinking that the stuff will be "financially attractive."

That would be interesting news for Storm Lake, where the chief problem is more sediment in the lake than we have places to put it even if we could afford to dredge it out.

Scientists say that one great use for dredged Iowa lake sediment would be to make statues out of it. No kidding.

All Storm Lakers might have to do then to achieve the needed dredging would be to buy lots and lots of statues.

Of course, it might take a little of the beauty out of the achievement if we could no longer see the lake due to millions of silt jockeys, saints, flamingoes, and the occasional civil war hero crowding our yards.

Perhaps we could take all of the muck in the lake and make it into a gigantic 300-foot-tall statue of Jerry Lewis to give to France, sort of a belated payback for the Statue of Liberty.

Another experiment involved mixing lake muck with dung from the Bronx Zoo, to be sold to New York City as topsoil. Again, I am not kidding.

We live in rural Iowa, and have to follow orangutans with pooper-scoopers in order to find manure?

So it could be that the scientists' plans need a little refining. But the thought is good. Make a buck off dredging, and con someone else into taking the confounded stuff in the process.

The natural answer would be the military. Remember the $400 hammers they used to buy? Dredge spoil is so much more useful.

Why waste expensive bombs on Middle East terrorists? Load a few transport planes with good, gooey lake muck mixed with a heaping helping of hoglot manure, and plug up those caves with it. Trust me, they will come out.

Give it to Nebraska to build a mountain with. Goodness knows the state's got nothing but a football team going for it now.

There may be economic development in that muck, my friends. While we've been so busy trying to figure out how to suck spoil out of the lake, thank goodness science has been busy looking for ways to suck profit out of the muck.