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#4746 - 09/01/04 12:42 PM Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
This project is so small I'm a little embarrassed to even ask, but you guys sure are the pros, so here goes!

A small creek runs through my property and I'd like to erect a dam to create a small pond behind my house. The creek is permanent and has small fish. The pond would be about 8 ft wide by 15 ft and maybe 2 1/2 ft deep. The purpose is aesthetics, to add some babbling sound, and promote wildlife.

I've been told that I can place dry bags of cement in place and they will soak up water and set. I'm thinking around a dozen small bags or so, with a spillway in the middle. Any ideas on this, or anything to be cautious of? I assume I can start at the sides and do the middle last. The location is a shoals about 2-3 ft wide with with moderate banks of about 1-2 feet.

My other question is this: I realize that the state regulates virtually all running water, but this tiny creek has my property on both sides, is not visible from anywhere but my house at this point, and I'm not digging/diverting anything. What would YOU do as far as permitting, and how difficult would it likely be to get? Thanks!

#4747 - 09/01/04 01:21 PM Re: Very small dam construction
FarmPondLover Offline

Registered: 08/15/04
Posts: 17
Loc: Oakboro, NC
Blocking the stream without permitting could cause a problem legally, especially if a downstream neighbor notices a decrease in water flow and investigates. However, if the "wind" were to blow some large logs across the creek......

#4748 - 09/01/04 06:00 PM Re: Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
I feel a "wind storm" coming on...

But seriously, perhaps I should look into the proper permitting for piece of mind. I suppose they'd want to see "plans," which only consist of about what I said in my first post. Silt management should be a non-issue, as should liability. But then if they said "no" - I'm stuck. It's just that it's intended to be such a small thing...

But I'm wondering about this cement bag method - would it have to be supported until it set? And how long would it take to set wet? I wonder if I should place the bags parallel with the creek rather than perpendicular. Any other helpful hints from anyone would be appreciated.

#4749 - 09/01/04 09:50 PM Re: Very small dam construction
Dave Davidson Offline

Registered: 04/22/02
Posts: 1892
Loc: Hurst & Bowie Texas
I wouldn't create a dam. I would create something with concrete bags that I could walk across, drive a 4 wheeler across, etc. You will have to use quite a few of them to keep it from washing out though. I would anticipate that you will need them about 4 deep. Make sure you put them as flat as possible or water will run under them and defeat the project.

I don't really see a problem. As soon as you back water, it will run over the walkway.

#4750 - 09/03/04 12:32 AM Re: Very small dam construction
Bob Lusk Offline
Editor, Pond Boss Magazine

Registered: 04/10/02
Posts: 3126
Loc: Whitesboro, Texas
Bags of concrete work fairly well. They set up quickly. But, unless you are careful when stacking them, expect seepage between sacks. Seepage could be significant enough to prevent your new pond from filling. If that happens, use a heavy plastic liner and stack concret on and around the liner. Plus, dig into each bank, and put bags there, too. Creek soils are notoriously porous. When your pond fills, water can go around the concrete dam.
Teach a man to grow fish...
He can teach to catch fish...

#4751 - 09/03/04 02:33 PM Re: Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
Thanks for the helpful suggestions! Bob, while I homestead in Alabama now, my family's farm is actually in your neck o' the woods - on FM 678 about halfway between US 82 and Woodbine, next to the Nelson Grove Cemetery! I've pulled some lunkers out of those stock ponds, and some nice catfish for the table over the years! I don't think anything fights quite like those little perch, though!

#4752 - 09/13/04 12:39 PM Re: Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
Thanks to all who provided advice and suggestions! The project has been successfully completed and results can be seen here:

creek dam

10 bags were needed. Bob was right - after the first attempt the pond only filled about halfway. Some leaked through or under and much went around one side. One bank is near a tree and too much water was flowing though its root network. I dug this out some, trimmed some roots, and installed the plastic liner along this side and in front of the dam. I also dug a little deeper in the center and used this fill to cover and weight the liner. The next day, water was flowing over the top at the intended spillway and the pond was full. It pooled up about 25 ft. back from the dam, which was larger than I had hoped. Quite a nice little pond - thanks again!

(I'm curious to see what happens after we get a good toad-choker.)

On another note, I checked with ADEM about permitting and they said a project of that size wasn't a concern to them, but that I could write the ACE district and ask for a letter stating that such a lansdcaping project would not need a specific permit.

#4753 - 10/29/04 05:24 PM Re: Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
Follow up: We got our toad-choker -- in the form of Ivan. Of course, all the purty rocks and gravel were scoured off the top first thing. Dam held up OK, but a few days later it had leaked down about halfway and never flowed over the top after that. Ivan also scoured out a deep pool on the downstream side, which I rather like. I procured some bentonite and a few more bags of concrete for the sides and it's flowing over the top better than ever now, and the receiving pool is quite attractive with the ripples from the fall. I have plenty of bentonite left over for future maintenance.

That bentonite is some curious stuff. I finally found some locally - I think they were amused that I only wanted a mere 200 lbs. I had to give them my address and phone number as well - the fellow explained that the stuff can be used as a stabilizer in explosives and since 9/11 they have to keep track of everyone who buys it. I don't think the crawdads like it too much, either.

#4754 - 10/30/04 09:01 PM Re: Very small dam construction
Lou Heron Offline

Registered: 05/26/04
Posts: 38
Loc: Alabama
Your pool looks like mama nature made it. Very nice!

I may never need to use any in my pond, but just in case, would you pass along where you got the bentonite?

BTW, I have a similar pool on each of the streams flowing from the mountainside into my pond (that's mountain in Alabama terms--for those who live in MAN mountians, those where I live are hogback ridges at best).

I don't make the pools--my industrious pals, the beavers, make them. The things are great silt traps, the land above the pond is too steep to become swampy, and I have trees to spare, so I consider the gnawing to be minimum wage.

I just wish they could see better so that they wouldn't scare the dickens out of me when they swim right up behind me and do the tail-slap thing. I'm too old for that much excitement!


#4755 - 11/02/04 11:31 AM Re: Very small dam construction
82Martin Offline

Registered: 09/01/04
Posts: 44
Loc: Alabama
Thanks, Lou! I got the bentonite at Perry Supply in downtown Birmingham. If you go there, just be careful not to get run over by all the class 8 tractors, etc!

Perry Supply

You do provide workman's comp for those beavers, don't you?


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