Last Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2017, 6:39 PM EST
After decades of neglect, a long-awaited dredging project began on the waters of the Eau Gallie River this week, to clean up the gooey muck long plaguing the river and the Indian River Lagoon as a whole.
- Eau Gallie River dredging begins
- Cleans up muck as much as 12 feet deep
- Expected to wrap up in 2018
Stormwater runoff—mixed with sand, clay, dead leaves and grass—has been piling up in the river for half a century.
In some places, it's from 2 to 12 feet deep.
"It's made the water shallow, it clouds up," said Ed Garland with the St. John's Water Management District.
The muck is blocking sunlight and choking the ecosystem. This river has never been dredged. Until now.
A $24 million project approved by the legislature is in full throttle.
It begins with a hydraulic dredge, sucking muck through a two-mile-long pipe network to a huge new containment area next to the county landfill in Melbourne.
By the time it's done, some 630,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed. Treated water runs back into the lagoon.
"We always said we would do the 'happy dance' on this day," said Amy Harrell, founder of the 100-member strong Eau Gallie River Environment is Threatened Project.
Harrell and her family moved to the banks of Elbow Creek, along the four-mile-long river, back in 2010.
She soon realized the waters were not what they should be.
"On the surface it didn't look bad, but you looked deeper, and you knew you had to do something," she said. "You step forward, you get with your community, you bond together and you do it. Things can happen."
Officials say without any type of follow-up dredging, it would take 40 years for these levels of muck to return.
The project is expected to wrap up in late 2018.