Fraser Valley water officials optimistic about device that vacuums sediment from streams
September 19, 2008
Officials got the chance Thursday at Winter Park Resort to view a new technology that can literally vacuum out the silt and sediment clogging the Fraser Valleys streams and rivers.Streamside Systems LCC, an Ohio-based company, put on a demonstration of its patented Sand Wand System at the confluence of Jim Creek and the Fraser River. Representatives from Winter Park Resort, the U.S. Forest Service, Winter Park Water & Sanitation and Trout Unlimited were on hand to see what the equipment can do. Looking like a galvanized version of a vacuum cleaner, the Sand Wand was being maneuvered around large rocks in the middle of the creek by a Streamside Systems technician as the demonstration began. Attached to the wand were hoses that snaked off a few yards to the eight- and 13-horsepower pumps that work as the push-pull portion of the system.More hoses were laid from the pumps to the opposite side of the stream where the systems sediment collection box was located.Within just a minute of turning on the pumps, a steady stream of sand and sediment sucked up by the Sand Wand began pouring down the steel surface of the systems collection box. The system has the capacity under ideal conditions to sweep up and remove 15 cubic yards of sand and sediment per hour.The Sand Wand shoots a water jet into the stream bottom, said Randall Tucker, the inventor of the Sand Wand and owner of Streamside Systems. It is strong enough to tumble the smaller rocks and lift up the sand and sediment off the streambeds substrata of gravel.Tucker said the wand selectively removes materials from the stream bottoms.It vacuums up only certain size particles and leaves anything larger than 8/10ths of an inch in diameter, he said. What this systems does is sediment removal, not dredging, which can be very damaging to aquatic ecosystems.Tucker said he developed the Sand Wand and began Streamside Systems three years ago, outside of his career as a senior research engineer with Cooper Tire & Rubber Company. It became a passion of mine, he said. I started this business both for my kids and to help the environment.Along with the Sand Wand, Tucker has developed and patented the Bedload Collector and Drop Box Filter, which he describes as a passive collection system which can be placed in a stream to trap sand and sediments. Tucker and Streamside Systems were invited to the Fraser Valley by Kirk Klancke, chapter president of Trout Unlimited and president of the East Grand Water Quality Board.The day prior to Thursdays demonstration, Steamside Systems put on a demonstration near Fraser for a CNN television crew that was preparing a special on new environmental technology for the news networks Economic Report and Sustainable Planet segments. The CNN-TV shoot took place along a section of Ranch Creek on property owned by Hurd Creek Ranch. Klancke said he was impressed by the results.It was just great, he said. Steamside took a heavily sedimented portion of Ranch Creek that I know by heart and turned it into a perfect spawning area for trout. Klancke said the technology offered by Streamside System is one possible solution to the declining health of the Fraser Valleys streams. We trying to find solutions to the problems of sedimentation and low stream flows in this area, Klancke said. He explained that one of the biggest causes of sedimentation for the areas streams and rivers is sand being washed off local roadways.For example, CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) spreads an average of 9,000 tons of sand every year on Berthoud Pass, he said. A lot of that gets washed off into the creeks. Its choking the upper Fraser River.To find a solution to that problem, Klancke said the East Grand Water Quality Board has already secured a grant for $250,000 to construct a sediment collection basin at the base of Berthoud Pass. That proposed project is awaiting a review by the Denver Water Board. Once thats built, well need another one further downstream, he said.As for the problem of low stream flow, Klancke said a major reason for that is water diversion from the Fraser River to the Front Range by the Denver Water Board.The low flows are another cause of the sediment problem in our streams, he said. Those that are profiting from taking the water might feel some responsibility for it. Why cant they help mitigate this problem? This is a solution.