The Piranha goes to work

Alistair Stewart

Our gentle readers may remember that one of Jeff Goad's first good deeds as our new President was the preparation and submission of our 2012 grant application to The Trout and Salmon Foundation. The application requested funds to support the purchase, in conjunction with our good friends from CWTU, of a Piranha sand dredge for Shawn Sullivan of the Wisconsin DNR. We learned, about this time last year, that our application had been successful. Upon receipt of the TSF monies, we sent a check up to Shawn, who gathered further funds from CWTU and his own budget, and purchased a Piranha which was delivered this spring.

Shawn has been regaling me with tales of its use and productivity throughout the season, and on the last workday of the year (this past Saturday), Arturo, Bill, Jim Brown and I joined our CWTU friends, and others, to see the Piranha in operation; Jim's evocative pictures tell some of the story. The Piranha sits on a small pontoon, and is floated into place; upon firing up the pumps, it jets water into a hole, subsequently sucks the loosened sand/water mix out, and finally deposits it via a separate hose to wherever makes sense. It takes a strong young person to operate the jet (about one hour is a good spell for one individual to be engaged in this end of the labor of love), and another to guide the depositing hose.

Last Saturday an impressive crew of TU and other volunteers worked with the Piranha, under the guidance of Shawn and most of his crew, on a sadly wide and shallow section of the White River, just upstream from the narrows overlooked by the Leopold bench honoring Jim Chapralis. We blocked off quite large braids with Xmas trees, and then solidified them in position with significant quantities of sand sucked by the Piranha out of a hole just upstream. The progress afforded by this marvel of engineering ingenuity was staggering; with DNR labor at an all-time premium, our investment promises to deliver great and long-lasting payback, and restore Central Sands fish habitat at previously unattainable rates.