Monday, December 14, 2009

Our new pond (part 1)


One of the things we've wanted to do since shortly after we moved here is to build a pond. I wrote about the site we’ve had in mind in May (Chucky’s Pond), but we didn't had the funds to make it happen until this summer since we don't do debt. The intended purposes for the pond are swimming, some fishing, irrigation, and to add beauty. It's located near the house I'm building. So, we'll be right next to it and able to enjoy it year-round.

Here’s a view of the site for the pond from a photo I took a couple of years ago:

I had a couple individuals come out from NCRS a couple of years ago for an evaluation of the pond site. They were less than helpful. Based upon their records for the soil in the area, they gave me a 50/50 chance of a pond there holding water. They did say that whoever I got to build the pond would be able to tell once he started. They didn't do much more than get out of the car and talk to me for a few minutes.

After we'd had a bit more dry weather in August of this year, I talked with and then hired a local guy to come in with his trackhoe and dump truck to excavate the pond. He originally estimated that it would take 3 days to dig the pond and build the dam. It didn't work out that way, though.

Here he is shortly after beginning the excavation. He was moving the top soil behind the dam location so that it could be pulled back up onto the outside of the dam later. It was shortly after this point that we realized the project wasn't going to be as simple and quick as we both hoped. There were some major pockets of top soil. We're talking like 6 or 7 feet of it. Neither of us expected that. Apparently, over the last several hundred years, a lot of material has washed down off the ridge above and settled here. He said that if I was closer to the main road (I'm glad I'm not, though), I could've gone into business selling top soil.

Here’s a view of the future pond after the first couple of feet of top soil was removed: 

In the next photo, he had started digging out the extra top soil in order to get to the clay. He loaded the dump truck and stock piled the dirt behind the far end of the proposed dam (you can see some piles near the trees to the back right). There was good clay under there, thankfully. (That’s not his dump truck in the photo – he was actually fueling the excavator in this photo.)

In some places the clay wasn't too deep. In other places, there were seams of top soil in between ridges of clay. He might dig three feet into clay and still have top soil adjoining it at that depth.
I had wanted to make the pond as large and deep as possible. But, with the cost of the project increasing with each day required to move more top soil, I decided to move the dam back a bit, making the pond a little smaller – 1/4 acre instead of 1/3 acre.

He dug down to good clay for the dam, allowing a good core trench. After he built the dam up a few feet, he had to move clay from another area of the pond:

I was happy with digging down for the dam clay because that made the pond deeper. It ended up 12 or 13 feet at the deepest end against the dam.

In the following photo, you can see what things looked like after a week's worth of work. We were pretty much done, and I was just about out of money. There were only a couple of things left to do: install the overflow pipe and emergency spillway and build up shape the back side of the dam. You can see in this photo that the slope on the back side was a bit extreme.

We used a 12" concrete culvert that was here on our farm for the overflow which should be sufficient over 90% of the time. The watershed for the pond is about 8 acres of hillside. There is another 12" culvert under one of my drives through which the water has been flowing when it rains, draining into a small creek. It has handled the water quite well. We also cut an emergency spillway near the overflow pipe for those times when we get a goose-drowner. The water coming into the pond will mostly come out of a fairly level draw between the hill sides (to the far left in the above photo).

With one more day of work, he was able to move the stockpiled top soil and put it on the outside of the dam so that the slope there would be more manageable.


As you can see in these photos, when he was done, the dirt was rough and was not packed down. The dam itself was well-packed, but the top soil added to the back slope on the last day of work was not. If he'd had a dozer, he would have run over it.

At this point, I thought I was pretty well done with the pond. But I was wrong. More details to follow. . .


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