Farm Talk

October 23, 2012

Build a pond once, the right way

by Sean Hubbard
CNHI

— A pond with no water is as useless as a table with no legs.

“You only get one chance to build a pond the right way,” said Marley Beem, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension aquaculture specialist. “There are many, many ways in which a pond can be built wrong. None of which you will want to experience.”

Many of these avoidable pond construction errors involve the dam. While it is cheaper to build the dam with steeper banks, pond owners are left with a short-lived pond with a weak and narrow dam.

“A dam with a broader base and gentler slopes will be stronger, less prone to erosion, less vulnerable to burrowing damage and easier to mow twice yearly to eliminate damaging trees and shrubs before they get established,” Beem said.

Before dam construction, top soil should be removed and a core trench should be dug along the midline of the dam.

“A trench needs to be dug along the midline and packed with your best clay soil before the dam is built. Skip this step and you risk water seeping under the dam,” he said. “The soils in the dam can be properly compacted by laying it down in layers, checking for adequate moisture and using special compaction equipment on each layer, like a sheepsfoot roller.”

Only soils with adequate water-holding capacity should be used. Also, there needs to be enough watershed to fill the pond.

“It takes a large runoff area to supply water to a pond, especially during a drought period,” Beem said.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) offers expert, onsite advice for design and construction assistance.

“By all means pick an experienced earthwork contractor,” said Beem. “But in addition use the design assistance of the NRCS, plus be onsite as often as possible to insure that NRCS recommendations are followed.” £