One reason that sucking huge amounts of silt out of Lake Worth after years of talk can be done so quietly and unobtrusively is that the thousands of gallons per minute of debris is being transported via a pipe to a composter 1.7 miles away.
The dredging, one piece of a long-envisioned city plan to turn the lake into a popular spot as significantly more population heads for far West Side areas like Walsh Ranch, has been underway since Aug. 28. The dredging is designed to boost the lake’s safety, recreational appeal and water volume.
"It basically gives us a drought-proof lake," Paul Bounds, the city’s project manager, said.
The plan for the $12.5 million first phase, funded by gas lease revenue from beneath the lake, is to remove 1.8 million cubic yards, with completion envisioned for May.
Dredging is occurring in various areas 150 feet and farther from shore, deepening them to six to 10 feet. Around Castle Circle where the dredge worked Wednesday, water is 2.5 to 4 feet deep, Bounds said.
Safety risks such as stumps that have damaged boat props are being removed, Bounds said.
The final phase of dredging, which must be approved by the council, would be closer to shore – 10 to 15 feet – and remove 400,000 cubic yards of silt. It would not disturb grassy native wetlands, under Army Corps of Engineers rules, Bounds said.
The sand-and-water mixture is being sent through a 20-inch pipe to the privately-owned Silver Creek Materials west of Loop 820. Silver Creek is a Great Lakes subcontractor and is using the silt to make a compost.
The council approved the first phase in January.
Dredging has been held up largely by funding; the Barnett Shale’s emergence removed that roadblock.
"I think the council was very wise to early on earmark (lease revenue) and say we’re going to fix this lake," former Councilman Carter Burdette, on the council when it approved the Lake Worth Vision Plan in 2011, said.
As growth moves west, "this lake as a recreational feature will be even more important," he said.
Other factors in the dredge timetable have been the determination of where to dredge, the Army Corps’ permitting process that reviewed impact on the Trinity River watershed and lake wildlife, and tests on contaminants.
Tests showed PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyls, to be present in silt in Woods Inlet near the Naval Air Station. PCBs don’t dissolve in water and instead stick to the soil, so dredging won’t occur there, city officials said.
Tests continue as the dredge moves into different parks of the lake, but haven’t turned up "anything outside regulatory limits," Bounds said.
The state maintains an advisory against eating bottom-feeders such as carp and catfish from the lake, but lifted its advisory last year against eating top-feeders like bass and crappie, Bounds said.
"There’s really nothing wrong with the water," he said.
Also moving forward at the lake is the plan for the revitalization of the old Casino Beach, where an amusement park thrived in the 1920s that included a dance hall, boardwalk, roller coaster and bathhouse, and attracted performers like Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey.
The Council in June approved an agreement with a Fort Worth group that plans several restaurants, stores, movie theater, outdoor ampitheater, events center, boardwalk, and ferris wheel.
Under the agreement, Casino Beach Partners, LLC would build $10 million in private improvements and $10 million in public ones, such as the ampitheater and events center. The city would reimburse the partnership for the public improvements, and the partnership would manage them and keep 90 percent of revenue.
Casino Beach Partners is negotiating with the city to bring $4.8 million in water and sewer service to the property and other areas around it. The partnership would run the bids. Development around the lake has been held up by lack of water and sewer service.
Once that agreement is complete, it would take about a year for Casino Beach Partners to begin construction and a year to complete the first phase: six restaurants, marina, ampitheater, and events center, Mike Patterson, a partner, said.
The partnership is buying 12 acres from the city and leasing another 40, and expects to invest a total $25-$30 million in the first phase, including the land cost, but excluding water and sewer, Patterson said.
Patterson and his son, Tyler Patterson, also a partner, said they’re in discussions with potential restaurants, focusing on established local restaurateurs to create a Fort Worth flair. They expect to pre-lease at least half the six restaurants.
The group has lined up a loan agreement with Pinnacle Bank, Patterson said.
And the group expects to float a private equity proposal by the first of the year, he said.
"I would expect to raise that equity in 60 days," he said.
The group envisions a "date night" atmosphere, with a mix of food, live music and movies, Tyler Patterson said.
"We’re trying to bring back Casino Beach exactly like it was, but in a modern way," he said.
The Pattersons made their name in local real estate by forming a group that bought 1,535 leased lots around Possum Kingdom Lake from the Brazos River Authority for $52 million two years ago, and then re-selling the lots to people who built homes on them. The group has less than 100 lots left to sell, Michael Patterson said.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter
(Photos, from top: Lake Worth dredging Wednesday, Silver Creek Materials site; Tyler and Michael Patterson, historic Casino Beach)