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#493569 - 07/10/18 03:06 PM Michiganger starting my planning
Geoff M. Offline

Registered: 07/10/18
Posts: 1
Loc: Webberville, MI
Hello from Michigan!

This forum has come up in almost every search I have made, so I figured it was time to take the plunge and joing the forum.

We moved last year to an 8 acre plot in the country outside Lansing, MI with a roughly .75 acre vernal pond. It's between 2 and 3 feet deep in winter, but bone dry come late August.

It's primary purpose will be just for recreation, swimming and floating and paddling and whatnot, but I'd also like to be able to stock it for fishing with the boys, just sunfish and whatnot.

I'm not sure whether the forum will let me include photos on a first post, so I'll try and link them just in case.

The property outline. You can see the swampy area next to the road, surrounded by brush.

This is how the 'pond' looks in the summer, late August or so. (It's July now and it's about 16"). The grassy area (and the one hidden behind the line of bushes on the right) is probably about a half acre with the surrounding buttonbush and scrub trees and grass.

You can see what the water level in that area is in the winter, so I'm fairly certain we shouldn't have any issue with water. (The pond is the open area on the left. The rest is just overflow). It takes a couple months before the water table dips below a foot or so below the surface.

So I'm not even sure where to start with the project aside from my initial research. I'm pretty sure I'd like it to be an acre with a depth of 20ft for at least 50% of it?

Here are some of my initial questions:

  • Not sure if I should clear the brush first, or if that's a non-issue for an excavator. I'm assuming it's sucking up some water in the summer that would make excavation easier, though?
  • We have pinpointed some areas in the property that could use some extra dirt for leveling out, but it's probably only an acre or two. We were actually thinking about adding a hill next to the pond for sledding and shenanigans (maybe a hobbit hole?!). Are there any concerns about runoff if I see it? Is that a silly or unreasonable idea? Or should I start budgeting for dirt removal?
  • When I'm not worried about damns or drainage, can I just hire a general excavator or do I need a specific engineer?
  • Most importantly...HOW THE HECK DO I START!?!

Thanks everyone for all the help even before I registered!!!

Edited by Geoff M. (07/10/18 03:09 PM)

#494174 - 07/24/18 12:07 PM Re: Michiganger starting my planning [Re: Geoff M.]
liquidsquid Offline

Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 1941
Loc: East Bloomfield, NY USA
I am surprised nobody replied, but welcome to PB!
As a hint, it would be best to say hello here, then post specific questions in targeted discussions to get a better response.

It sounds like a fun project, but since that area holds water part of the year, I would worry there is some sort of wetlands restrictions on its use. Is it a natural vernal pond? I would make sure you do some research on this area to be sure it is OK to dig there, or the fines and trouble you could get into can be pretty damaging.

Another note: you need some pretty large machinery to make a hole that size, and it wont happen in your lifetime with a single excavator.

I would recommend talking to some local landscapers or garden shops to make connections with excavating businesses who have successfully dug ponds in your area. Get some estimates and choose the contractor that has both a reasonable price, and who knows what they are doing. Don't go for cheapest quote. In this business, cheap does not equal a non-leaking pond. Many of us are here because we swap stories on our battle with leaks.

Good luck and sorry for the late response!

#494177 - 07/24/18 01:26 PM Re: Michiganger starting my planning [Re: Geoff M.]
canyoncreek Offline

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 1965
Loc: West Michigan
Hi Geoff,
Sorry I missed this as I usually try to be quick about welcoming and encouraging MI pond owners. I would like to say that I would like to be quick to HELP them too but not sure I'm much help as this is all new to me as well. But I have learned a lot and you came to the right place.

I will double up on the concern about you getting in big trouble planning to dig a pond in a wetland. Although going to the DEQ in MI and asking about this feels like going to find out what price you have to pay to the priest before doing a particular sin, I would highly recommend it. You sink a boat load of money into this project and then the authorities come knocking and not only make you fill it back in but give you some painful fees for disturbing a natural wet land (fen, bog, vernal pond, etc) and you will have double pain.

This situation is not one where it is easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission!!

Then the 2nd thing is to read all you can about planning a pond and just as importantly, don't hire an excavator until you can visit SEVERAL of the ponds his/her outfit dug and talked to the pond owners about how leaky his/her ponds ended up being.

I've said it many times and have been proven right many times based on posts on this forum. In every state there are probably 5 or less 'excavators' that know how to properly build a pond. In the lower peninsula of MI there maybe are only be 1 or 2 total, if that. The rest are happy to move dirt for you and leave you with the leaky mess as the result.

Edited by canyoncreek (07/24/18 02:37 PM)

#494180 - 07/24/18 03:08 PM Re: Michiganger starting my planning [Re: Geoff M.]
canyoncreek Offline

Registered: 05/07/13
Posts: 1965
Loc: West Michigan
A moderator can probably fix your pictures so they embed right in your post too. The pictures show your place very nicely.


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