Nestled near the intersection of I-29 and I-635 north of Riverside is a 17-acre lake and residential area known as Houston Lake.
Incorporated as a city in 1960, this lakeside community–once short on people–has grown to 119 housing units.
In recent decades, the jewel of the city has been inundated with silt from upstream development and its once 35-feet depth has dwindled down to a single-digit depth. The silt has trapped a lot of sediment that is loaded with nutrients, feeding an endlessly growing population of invasive aquatic plants.
To combat the loss of lake depth and rapid spread of aquatic plants, Houston Lake residents approved a course of action earlier this year to have the sediment dredged from multiple areas of the lake.
On July 22, Scott Critchfield and his team actively began operating heavy equipment to remove the sediment from the north side of the peninsula. With a single swipe through the shallow water, gallons of sediment are picked up and dumped into a truck and disposed of at a dumpsite in Riverside near the Argosy Casino.
Kerry Hallowell, president of the Houston Lake Homeowners Association, said about 1,000 cubic yards of silt have remained on-site. But there is a constant struggle to dry out the sediment before it rains and washes back into the lake.
The process has been more cost efficient and less burdensome than in years past.
“We were very fortunate to have Critchfield locate a nearby dumpsite that was willing to accept the lion’s share of the silt at no cost,” said Hallowell.
So far, around 420 dump truck loads and approximately 9,500 cubic yards of silt have been removed from the north side of the peninsula and from a cove on the east side of the lake. That number will rise as dredging efforts continue over the next couple weeks, says Hallowell.
The process, Hallowell says, is going great.
“Critchfield has agreed to take out more silt at the peninsula and place rocks around the cove at no additional cost because he has been saving money bringing his equipment to the other side of the cove,” said Hallowell.
Once the dredging is done, cleanup efforts will take center stage. The constant motion of trucks and heavy equipment in the backyards of several lakeside homes has left behind ruts and chunks of sediment.
Still, overall residents are very pleased to have the dredging underway, especially considering the lake depth around the peninsula.
According to the Houston Laker newsletter, the lake levels had become so low that “geese can walk on the bottom of the lake.”
Last summer, Jake Allman, a fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, told lake officials in his experience with renovating lakes it was best practice to cut the dam, drain the entire lake, let it dry out, and then remove the sediments. But the process would have wiped out the fish population and would have taken about three years. Allman warned residents that the sudden death of fish and aquatic plants would cause a heavy stench, lasting many days.
To save time and money, Houston Lake residents went another route. Residents approved a plan to dredge specific areas of the lake that were deemed most problematic and shallow. This is a tried-and-true method used by previous city officials.
So far, their decision to tackle sections of the lake appears to be working. With less sediment in the lake, invasive aquatic plants–like duckweed, primrose and coontail–appear to be thinning out and the general health of the lake is improving.