How to Dredge Your Lake Effectively: An Owner's Guide — 3R Incorporated

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How to Dredge Your Lake Effectively: An Owner’s Guide

Dredge Lake Guide - Pond Exposed to Heavy Sediment Build Up

Dredging a lake is a massive undertaking, so you’ll want to make sure you get it done right the first time. It’s important you take a look at all the different options, costs, and results you’re looking to achieve by dredging. The last thing you need are cost overruns, environmental damage and huge cleanup costs from a botched job.


We’ve taken a look at dredging before, but the basic benefits of dredging are highly recommended by the NOAA:


“Dredging is the removal of sediments and debris from the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbors, and other water bodies. It is a routine necessity in waterways around the world because sedimentation—the natural process of sand and silt washing downstream—gradually fills channels and harbors.”


If you know you need dredging for your lake, here’s a quick guide to help you get started.


Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

As previously mentioned, you’re going to want to spend a good amount of time planning the operation. It’s best to work with a reputable company during the planning and preparation stage. They’ll be able to walk you through the whole process and everything required with the dredging – and hopefully, leave you with no surprises. We’ll touch on choosing a reputable company later.


A great example of planning comes from Illinois. Their fact sheet gives you a two-page overview of the program they’ve implemented, and how they’re tackling it in stages. You’ll note that their fact sheet includes a background, the current problems the lake faces, and their chosen method to solve those problems.


Determine what kind of Problem you’re Solving by Dredging

Determining the type of dredging you require will go a long way to helping you choose the right teams and methods to tackle that dredging. Here are a few different reasons you may need to dredge:


Preventative Dredging – This is one of the most common forms of dredging for shipping channels and ports. They need to dredge before any problems occur. By ensuring water depth is available to large ships, and removing any foreign materials on a regular basis, they don’t wait until they notice a problem to dredge. If you’re looking to be proactive with your dredging, this is where you start.


Restoration Dredging – This type of dredging occurs after some damage has already been done. A great example is a lake over in the United Kingdom that had never been dredged in its entire 150+ year history.


“High levels of silt are impeding plant development and also mean that particular plants such as water lilies and reeds are dominating the lake. Silt is also building up on root mass in and around the lake and affecting the shrubs and trees both in the lake and on its edges. Without intervention, the lake would eventually silt over entirely and become a swamp.”


This type of dredging will likely be needed if you’ve noticed your lake isn’t quite a lake anymore. You likely need to start here if shorelines are facing constant erosion and invasive plants are taking over.


Mechanical vs Hyrdaulic - Dredging in Areas of Industry Such as Harbor



Contamination Dredging – This is the worst type of problem to have. It likely means some damage is already being done. This is common in ports and lakes where a spill has occurred, or as metals build up on the lake floor from boat traffic.


It also means you’ll need to choose the right type of dredging equipment in order to ensure the contaminants aren’t being spread around. This is where resuspension is an important topic. The US Corp of Engineers has done a lot of work on resuspension and why it’s important if you’d like to read more.


Depth Dredging – Need a deeper lake for boating, or to better support fish stock? Dredging for depth is another fairly common reason you’d need to undertake this task.


Choose a Dredging Technology that works for You

We’ve already covered the major differences between hydraulic and mechanical dredging, but here’s a quick recap:


Mechanical – Often uses a large crane or backhoe to remove material with a bucket digging down. Lake may or may not need to be drained to employ this method. Great for removing large objects.


Hydraulic – More like a vacuum that sucks up silt and debris. It’s often friendlier on the environment. It won’t remove larger objects though.


Dredge Lake Guide - Mechanical Dredge


There many pros and cons to each type of dredging and some methods work better than others.


Look for Reputable Dredging Companies

Lastly, you’ll want to work with reputable companies when dredging a body of water. Most companies will have a track record you can view. If they don’t have any information on previous clients, that’s a bad sign.


You’ll want to review the work and techniques they’ve used in the past, along with any cost overruns or work disruptions. It will give you a good idea of how they handle any unforeseen issues. The cheapest bidder isn’t always the best option – and can cost more in the long run. Reputation means something in this industry.


Dredging is a complex process that involves a lot of planning. If you have questions about your project, let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them!


Email us at or call us at (864) 848-1312.

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