A large sediment deposit along the Ohio River, in close proximity to Paducah’s transient boat dock, is the focus of ongoing efforts by the city of Paducah to alleviate the issue.
The city is working to obtain a permit to dredge it.
“About 2016, it started becoming evident when the river was at a summer pool elevation, which is about local gauge 16 feet,” City Engineer Rick Murphy said.
“Then, it was just a very small knob, I guess you would say. It was directly in front of the (former) showroom (lounge).”
The sediment deposit probably began around 2015 at the bottom of the river, according to Murphy. He thinks it’s been formed as a result of construction of a landmass out into the river, or the transient boat dock and riverfront park enhancements.
It’s been exacerbated by “significant” flooding in 2018, 2019 and 2020, leading to emergency declarations. It also qualified the city for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to help pay for sediment removal. The city wants to be strategic about dredging and won’t remove all of it, Murphy explained.
“The reason for that is the amount of dredging to remove all of the material that’s there — it would be very expensive, and what we’re looking to do is strategic dredging that would accommodate the needs of our transient boat dock and also, to address a neighboring need of a local business,” he said.
Murphy told The Sun this situation has impacted Midwest Terminal’s hot liquid asphalt offloading. However, he said it doesn’t cause problems for docking boats at the transient boat dock at this time, but it would if left unchecked.
Early this year, the city applied for a permit that went to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Kentucky Division of Water, in order to do dredging and disposal work. It entered into a $29,950 agreement with HDR Engineering, for work on the permit application process.
“The Kentucky Division of Water wrote a letter of denial to the city of Paducah,” Murphy said.
There was a “public concern,” as he said that Paducah Water wrote a letter of concern to the Kentucky Division of Water regarding its raw water intake.
“All the water that’s distributed in the city that Paducah Water distributes is taken in from the Ohio River,” Murphy said. “We do not get water from wells. We pull it from surface water and in this case, the Ohio River. It is cleaned and treated and provided to our community.”
As for what’s next, the city is working on a request for quotation, or RFQ, for professional agencies that can help it acquire a permit for dredging.
Since its lower budget attempt was denied, Murphy said it will have to go to “plan B,” which is a more costly approach that may involve more research, such as mussel surveys and underwater investigations to protect the environment, as required by regulatory agencies.
“We’re working on it, but when you’re dealing with federal funding, which FEMA money is ... there is a very significant permitting process that has to be executed properly, and getting approvals prior to the work being done and/or the city qualifying to receive its reimbursement,” he said.
Murphy doesn’t have an exact cost figure yet. However, he stressed that 87 cents on the dollar will be covered by federal and state agencies, leaving the city with 13%.
“The dredging permit that we will be applying for is referred to as a maintenance dredging permit and it’s good for 10 years, so over the course in the next several years, we would monitor the sediment buildup and the sediment buildup is directly proportional to the frequency of flooding,” he said.
“We would directly monitor that as a result of the needs of what the transient boat dock, the function of that, to keep it viable throughout that time period.”
City Manager Jim Arndt added that he thinks the state’s permit denial was just part of the process, and the city will continue to tweak and improve its application to ensure it does what’s right for the environment and community.
He said the city has three primary goals with the sediment deposit.
“One, is to protect the integrity of the transient boat dock — make sure we have utilization of that moving forward,” Arndt said.
“Two, is to make sure we mitigate all we can to protect the local business here in town and make sure they’re able to utilize their current infrastructure that’s in place, and, three, we want to make sure that the community has safe drinking water.”