CHAMBERLAIN — There’s a pretty big boat in the American Creek Marina.

A crew has been on scene at the public river access in Chamberlain for weeks to conduct a significant dredging project that’s mostly funded by federal and state grants.

Dredge America, of Kansas City, with its large boat and dredging equipment, is working to remove about 68,000 cubic yards of river sediment from the marina, which is located just off Chamberlain’s Main Street on the east side of the Missouri River. The urgency to maintain the marina as a strong resource for local residents and visitors alike shows its value to the city, said Chamberlain City Engineer Greg Powell.

“The marina was dredged about 10 years ago and it typically lasts about 20 to 25 years between dredging incidents,” Powell said, “but the flood of 2019 just brought unbelievable amounts of sediment into the marina.”

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The Chamberlain City Council gave the dredging project the full-go earlier this year. It’s good timing to get underway, too, as anglers from all over the Upper Midwest visit Chamberlain during the spring. Even more impressive for the community this year is the National Walleye Tour tournament, which runs April 29-30. Chamberlain/Oacoma is the first of five stops for the National Walleye Tour’s 2021 schedule.

“The city and the chamber try very hard to promote this community to people within and outside of the state,” Powell said. “That’s the reason we’re doing this is for people to have access to the river and enjoy themselves.”

Powell said 85 percent of the roughly $1 million price tag for the dredging work is being covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The crew started pumping sediment earlier this week and the completion deadline is set for August, though officials believe the job could be done much sooner. The access will be available to boats throughout the work, according to Sam Robinson, Dredge America president.

The company, which conducts dredging projects all over the country, hauled in its large boat with four trucks. It was assembled and pushed into the marina to begin work.

“It vacuums material off the bottom like a Shop-Vac underwater,” Robinson said, explaining that a cutter head, otherwise known as a large blade, first stirs up the bottom of the river.

The sediment is sucked out and pumped into holding ponds about 1,500 feet to the southeast of the marina. The water eventually flows back into the river as the sediment settles in its new location.

Powell said the community is pleased the work is being done. He said the water levels were so low last year by the Fourth of July that the marina could barely be used to access the main river. By August, there wasn’t enough water to float a boat. Dredging the sediment will make for a deeper marina and allow better boat access when the river is lower.

Dredging was last conducted in 2009, a time when the community put a strong emphasis on improving the American Creek area and its nearby campground.