Notes from the Island
April 2003


Spring has arrived on Sycamore Island. Despite the sad shroud of war that is hanging over us, the sun has coaxed the plants to emerge from the earth and given the birds a reason to sing. The snow and high water are gone, the air is warm and the riverís less chilly. Itís time for those of us who relish being on the water to smile because paddling season is here!

Iím really looking forward to April, not only because Iíll be on vacation from the 12th to the 20th, but also because of all the great things going on here on the island. After a straight month of hazardous river levels the ferry is finally operating again and it will be fun to see some visitors for a change. Iím also looking forward to the River Clean-up, New Member Orientation and the Wildflower walk, all scheduled for this month. And now that the river is almost 60 degreesÖwe can paddle, paddle, paddle!

This past month has been rather uneventful. The river level was above 6 feet for almost the entire month, maybe a record. Of course this is a blessing in disguise, it is much preferred to have a month of slow melting snow than one big, quick, flood of snowmelt. We did have some minor flooding events but I now know what to expect and there was little cause for anxiety. The winter was fun and challenging but frankly Iím happy to see it ending so we can once again use the island.

I have some rather disgusting news to report. Iím sure everyone is aware of the 72Ē sewer pipe that runs along the canal. From what I understand, itís not uncommon for this pipe to overflow. Sometimes thereís a blockage but usually when there is an overflow itís due to excess volume in the pipe caused by large amounts of run-off like we had recently when all the snow melted. When the volume exceeds the capacity of the pipe, raw sewage is forced out of the pipe and flows directly into the canal. The canal became thick with algae and as the algae died and decomposed it sucked all the oxygen from the water. This caused a fish kill. I called the director of natural resources for the park, Diane Ingram, and she confirmed my suspicions. The evidence of where the overflow occurred can be seen just below lock 7 at a manhole cover there. The canal between lock 8 and Fletcherís is now contaminated and signs are posted along the towpath warning people to stay clear of the water in the canal. Itís looking better now, but earlier this month the canal was thick with sludge, grease, and dead fish floating on the surface.

The birding has been very good this month. The rare, Red-necked Grebe became a common sight and the warblers and other migrants have been spotted passing through. The cormorants have returned and the geese have all claimed their nesting spots on the island. Looks like four nesting pairs of geese will be calling this home for a while. For you Blue Bell fans, the first of those flowers are just starting to bloom now.

I have turned on all the water to the clubhouse so now the toilets and sinks are usable again. I also made a new place for the sign-in sheet. Not a lot of other projects to report but with the nice weather my list of chores is quickly growing. If you miss the workfest and you want to help out, just let me know, there are always fun projects that we could do.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker