Review: Hyundai longreach and Heking floating excavators

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

A serious infestation of a dam by water hyacinth and salvinia had Ron Horner turn to the weed-busting combination of a Hyundai longreach and Heking floating excavators

Hyundai-and-Heking-excavators
The Heking broke up masses of weed and floated them back to shore

I recently received a telephone call from a concerned landowner who had inherited a major weed infestation of a couple of dams on his property.

Now, that is nothing unusual you may say, but this issue is one of the most extreme I have ever witnessed.

Lance Look has some prime country over near Canungra in south east Queensland and runs some of the best looking beef cattle I have ever seen. Buying this particular parcel of land some years ago, he inherited a problem which had become a major issue over the ensuing years.

The block was a turf farm that had two extremely large dams on them. These dams had reasonable run off areas, but having a good water licence, these dams were filled via the Canungra and/or Albert rivers.

The property itself is really well maintained and weed- and thistle-free, however those bloody noxious water weeds, namely water hyacinth and salvinia have been inadvertently pumped into the dams via the waterways of Albert and Canungra and have eventually taken full control over a 20-year period.

On viewing the dams in question and offering up a couple of solutions on how the weed issue could be rectified, an approximate cost and methodology, Lance gave us the go ahead to move forward in an attempt to take control once again of the water storage facility.

Having access to a unique item of specialised waterway equipment I got to call my mate Andy Haggerty and convinced him to come over with his 45t Hyundai longreach excavator while I secured a Heking floating excavator.

The first dam in question is about 400 metres in length and could run to 150m widest point. A fantastic dam in its heyday but not if it is choked to death with this bloody weed – and I mean top to bottom, length and breadth.

Our game plan was really simple: "Do not fall in, do not get electrocuted by the over-hanging power lines in the dam and do not sink the machine."

Hyundai-and-Heking-excavators
The 45t Hyundai with 65 feet of reach was idea for this application

HISTORY

Salvinia is a weed of national significance and is regarded as one of the worst aquatic weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for rapid growth and spread, as well as being the cause of economic and environmental damage. 

This weed chokes waterways, floats on still or slow moving water and can grow rapidly to cover the entire water surface with a thick mat of vegetation, as was the case in question.

This weed can reach up to 400 tonnes of wet weight per hectare, pollute the water, kill off other plant life and reduce the oxygen available for aquatic life. It is a free floating aquatic weed which, if it cannot be physically removed, requires biological control in warmer waters or chemical control in cooler regions.

Water hyacinth is regarded as one of the world’s worst aquatic weeds with infestations running rampant in coastal Queensland and New South Wales.

It is another major pest of creeks, rivers and dams as it chokes wetlands and waterways, killing native wildlife and interfering with recreational use. This floating weed grows up to 65mm tall but it’s the 1m-long underwater tail that causes the damage and creates difficulty in eradication.

Water hyacinth seeds can imbed in the substrate for 15 years and stem fragments and seed pods are spread by water movement.

Controlling the spread of this invasive species is best attacked by mechanical control either with excavators or weed harvesters, however the latter has some difficulty in cutting the fully grown plant sitting at 1.65m with the underwater tail included.

Herbicide control is quite popular, however the rotting hyacinth merely sinks to the bottom of the dam and results in pollution of another kind and biological control, although effective, can take many years to achieve a satisfactory result.

With no time up his sleeve as spring was almost upon him (growth season and nesting season) Lance called in the big guns.

With 90 years of earthmoving experience between us, the Horner and Haggarty Show hit town.

Hyundai-and-Heking-excavators
A build up of water hyacinth and salvinia had clogged the dams and led to a severe sedimentation issue

ON THE JOB

The Heking floating excavator and the Hyundai longreach both hit the job on cue.

A quick check of the site, areas of possible issue noted and the cleaning out and removal of some estimated 8,000 square meters of weed commenced. The Heking commenced working on the water while the Hyundai worked its way around the edges and assisted in dragging the bulk materials from the path of the floater. We soon realised that this was one large undertaking.

The 45t Hyundai with 65 feet of stick was the ideal machine for this job. Powerful but not in a new condition meant that in the event of it getting into a sticky situation with water and mud, it would not be the end of the world in getting it dirty.

As for the floater, well it had been over or should I say under the water before (my doing), so it has a proven record of coming back!

The floater had installed/fitted a set of external pontoons to assist in reducing the rollover effects from the operator being a touch over enthusiastic in deep water and this was its first job with them fitted.

The Heking with pontoons extended now sits on the water at about 7 metres plus in width and sits as snug in the water as a Group C RX7 down Conrod. The difference is absolutely amazing and the confidence of the operator hits another level.

The hyacinth/salvinia combo had caused extreme silt build-up to form all over the dam to the point where the Heking could walk up onto the silt encrusted weed and walk (although very gingerly) over the 3 metre water depths below. This allowed for the weed to be broken into large chunks and floated back to shore for the longreach to pick up and dispose of up on the shoreline.

In other areas, where the weed was of considerable lesser intensity and the water level at the 2m mark, the floater was converted into a self-loading/unloading barge. It was a new method of loading/hauling of the heavy weed for me but could not have been attempted without the installation of the external pontoons, which created an unbelievable level of stability compared to not having them.

Once the removal of the weed from the water level at close proximity to the shoreline was achieved we had to create a more efficient method of bringing bulk materials from the deeper water areas of the dam. The distance from the shore ranged from some 20 metres to 60 metres and, as we didn’t have a barge to haul it that distance, some old school ingenuity had to be implemented.

Over extension of the dipper arm still causes the floater to go nose down when in deep water so you have to pick your mark upon attempting this.

I found that the response time from sinking to righting the machine is very impressive and has increased the capabilities of this little machine ten-fold. With this in mind I found it possible to edge the machine out into the depths and push the track frame under the floating weed mass.

Now normally this would prove disastrous and the operator could find himself in a difficult situation but the dangers were assessed and I deemed them acceptable.

It was then possible to cut a swathe at full outreach through the thick weed and pull the floating material onto the side pontoons and wrap the Heking in weed mass on both sides. A quick engagement of the tracks help dragging the material further on board and then, by using the dipper arm and bucket to pull the machine I was able to drag some 20-30 ton of wet matted weed mass some 60 meters back to shore, effective to say the least, both in costs, timeframe and efficiency.

A win, win, win here.

The 45t Hyundai longreach excavator was kept busy battling the floating material not unlike a mother Hen and her chickens. No sooner had he picked up one bucket of weed then the rest would disperse in a flurry, only to be rounded up next cycle.

It took a day but we eventually got into a rhythm where productivity was increased greatly and our extraction methodology was honed into something extremely effective.

Hyundai-and-Heking-excavators
Water weeds like water hyacinth and salvinia are major pest of creeks, rivers and dams

IT’S A WRAP

The landowner has had a couple of contractors attempt this task over the past few years but merely scratched the surface with no long-term resolution of the problem.

There is truth in the saying "right tools for the right job" and I must say that both Andy and myself were proud to be able to contribute to solving what has to be one of the major environmental damaging aquatic weed issues facing some landowners of today.

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