It will still be three weeks before the first cubic yard of silt is sucked out of the lake, but already the crew from L.W. Matteson is drawing a crowd.
Especially this week, as the Matteson dredge takes shape at Casino Beach Marina - staging area for the DNR dredge project.
The Burlington-based firm has been on site for about a week, busy setting up the dredge and all of its components.
Already eight truckloads of equipment have been delivered, according to supervisor L.P. Parker. They'll be expecting another 12, mostly piping to transport material from the lake to the spoil site.
The dredge will be a sight to see once assembled - at a total length of 240 feet. There are two main sections, the engine and cutterhead that do the actual dredging, and a tugboat to move the unit around the lake.
Once dredging begins, five-man crews will keep it running 24 hours a day.
Life on the dredge isn't bad, says employee Moises Garcia. "If nothing goes wrong, it will be nice," he said.
However, debris like stumps or rocks can slow the process down, forcing the crew to stop pumping and open the pipes to clean them out.
"Depending on the material, it affects the work we have to do," Garcia said.
Weather is always a concern, especially if the lake lives up to its namesake.
With most of the dredge structure set up, the crew will focus on getting all the inner-workings put in place, including the cutterhead.
They'll have to wait for the spoil site to be completed as well. There's still some dirt work left before the dredge can get working. "Once we start pumping, the water will saturate the site and they won't be able to finish," Parker said.
A little more rain might help, too. Parker said conditions are "borderline" to even get the dredge out of the marina. The minimum depth to float the unit is 3 1/2 feet, he said.
"If it gets any more shallow, we might have to dredge our way enough to float out to where we need to work," he said.
The hydraulic dredge uses a cutterhead attached to the engine portion of the dredge. The cutterhead agitates the material on the lake bottom, which is sucked up by a large pump and pushed through a pipeline to the spoil site. The crew uses a GPS system to keep on track.
Parker said there is very little impact to the underwater environment or to recreational users of the lake. And the dredge is environmentally friendly, with a biodegradable vegetable oil used for the hydraulics, he said.
On the lake, they expect a lot of interest, but Parker warns boaters to beware. There is the chance of hitting submerged pipe, and he says boaters shouldn't go between the dredge and the shore. "It'd be good for boaters to stay at least 25 to 50 yards away," he said.
L.W. Matteson Dredging is a premier dredge contractor throughout the country, having done numerous river and lake projects, including Black Hawk Lake.
The crew expects to take about 90 days to dredge the 180 acres in the state project. The spoil site should hold approximately 1.8 million cubic yards of silt.
Local interest in an expanded project continues, with the City of Storm Lake, the Lake Preservation Association and the county chipping in for a dredging study by Jim Ganske, an expert in the field. It should be completed early next month.
Recently county supervisors discussed appropriating $1,500 for the study, and including a lake restoration project in the county's 5-year capital projects plan.
House Speaker Brent Siegrist said $1.25 million should be available for lake dredging if the governor approves.