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I am trying to build a 1.2 acre pond near Watkins Glen, NY but have to get past the DEC and am still looking for a reputable builder in this area. I have done the topo mapping and laid out the perimeter and a map of the pond depths, have calculate the total volume of earth to be moved, have had the Soil Conservation folks on site (ApA soil type "areas provide excellent pond sites” according to the National Cooperative Soil Survey). I have dug 7 test pits, all good. I have started discussions with the NY DEC and have gotten past the first two hurdles (not a wet land and doesn't feed any controlled waters) and have designed the dam so it is less than 6 ft (5.6) and does not fall under Dam Safety regulations. Unfortunately, I will need a Store Water Discharge permit since it will disturb over 1 acre of land. I have talked with 4 excavators (one wouldn't even consider because it is over an acre and one didn't have experience working with Storm Water Permits (SWPPP). I am working through the 65 page permitting document but IT WOULD BE GREAT if someone has done this before and has a good template for building a pond this size or larger in NY. I also need recommendations for good pond builders in the Finger Lakes region that might be willing to come to Watkins Glen. Any suggestions are appreciated... PS. I don't know why Bob would say NY would be a good place to build a pond!

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Welcome to the Forum.

My sympathies for your location.


"Live like you'll die tomorrow, but manage your grass like you'll live forever."
-S. M. Stirling
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Welcome to the forums!...it's sounds like you have a great vision. Good luck with it. I can't help any with your permit and regulation issues... I called a guy and we merely build a pond on my 40. I'm pretty sure I have seen NY PondBoss members here and there posting...hopefully they can chime in.


Fish on!,
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Welcome to the club. No help with your issues here either. We dont even have to get building permits here. Do you know anyone around you who has a pond. I'm the type of person who will stop at a random house and ask who built it. Never meet one person who owns a pond who wont talk about it.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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Wish I was in Kansas! I have spoken to a few pond owners but have not met one that went over the 1 acre limit. One suggested we just dig it anyway but I am too close to a state road and they can shut you down if you don't have a permit. Some of the larger outfits work with the DEC on construction projects, but I have not gotten positive feedback on the ones near me. Thanks for the empathy all.

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Ahhh, the good ol' DEC. Down here, its referred to as the DNR (Dept of Natural Resources). People always give me a weird look when I mention the DEC in NC lol.

Last edited by Steve_; 06/10/21 09:41 PM.

"In the age of information, ignorance is a choice." - Donny Miller
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Yes, a small world. My daughter went to school in Charlotte and spent time in Fayetteville (a bit south of your).

I was hoping someone would have been through this or knew a good pond builder in may area... like people on this forum say, you don't catch fish if you ain't fishin.

Last edited by Retired on 40; 05/19/21 08:08 PM.
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Sorry, I wish I knew. From what I've read, they're very picky up there about ponds. Down here, the regulations are minimal. As long as you don't interrupt any creeks or public waterways, your dam height is less than 15' and you have less than 10-acre-feet of water, you don't need a permit.


"In the age of information, ignorance is a choice." - Donny Miller
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You might get some intelligence/direction from Professor Mark Cornwall at SUNY. He is a teacher of fisheries and a frequent contributor in Pond Boss magazine.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
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Thanks Dave for the suggestion. I hate bugging people, but have sent him an email. Cobleskill is 175 miles East (small by Texas standards) but he may have seen applicable Storm Water Permits. Thanks again.

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Dave, I contacted Mark and he got back to me. He didn't know of pond builders in my area and hadn't been through/seen a full SWPP for a 1+ acre pond. Thanks for the suggestion, good to try.

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Drive around the area. If you see a pond that you like, stop, introduce yourself, and tell them you saw their pond. Ask who built it and if they would use them again.

Also, ask if there was anything that they would have done differently.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
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I have quotes from two contractors, one is for $31,000. He has the equipment needed, but a reputation of not having qualified personal to run it. The second is for $35,000. That contractor struggled with how to deal with the wetness of the property (water table was at 5' last summer in the middle of a drought) and this will be dug to about that depth if possible with a 5' dam. He proposes doing it in stages over a longer period (would require pumping the already dug area. He also has a less than stellar reputation, although he has worked with the NY DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and is a bigger organization.

Total dirt to be moved (topsoil and fragipan) is around 7,300 cu yds. A third has a good reputation, recommended by Soil Conservation, two local pond owners, but has so far steered clear of the DEC and I would have to work hard to get all our ducks in a row. I am still looking, but who would you pick?

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I would try to cut a deal with #3


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
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Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
Drive around the area. If you see a pond that you like, stop, introduce yourself, and tell them you saw their pond. Ask who built it and if they would use them again.

Also, ask if there was anything that they would have done differently.
It may be useful to locate ponds that can't be seen from the road via aerial photos. I once talked with an avid local fisherman who found my ponds that way.


"Live like you'll die tomorrow, but manage your grass like you'll live forever."
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Just a quick update from NY. A vineyard owner friend, and previous planning board member, sent me to a Storm Water Coalition in the next county. They advised me on filling out the paperwork and I pulled together the 10 or so documents needed, with their help. I am back talking with potential contractors, including the well referenced one. In the mean time my plans have swelled from 1.2 to 1.3 acres and from 7.300 to 8,200 cu yds of dirt (idle hands are the devils playground). So I'm expecting a higher price, but you only live once. The issue we have now (and all summer) is that it has rained and rained and the ground is wetter to the point that my little 3 ton farm tractor sinks in spots. Thanks again for the advice.

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Thanks for the update, love hearing stories from my old stomping grounds. It's interesting that Schuyler county gave you more hassle than surrounding counties... I thought they were more lenient on things like that, compared to Steuben and Yates anyway.


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Definitely been a wet one this year! We are finally drying out on the other end of the lake (I am about an hour north of you). From what I know about the soils in your area, you should have no trouble with finding clay until you hit that shale layer which is present everywhere but in the valleys. So preferably, if you do hit shale, make sure and set aside a fair bit of the clay to line the hole with after you achieve the depth you want. I would hate to see you go through all this trouble to expose a crack in the rock to which all your water flows.

From the ponds I have seen down there, they didn't even need bother with a key in the damn the soils are so jam-packed with clay. Wish my soils we like that!

We kept our pond <1 acre to avoid the DEC factor and needing to hire someone to design it. Good luck with your project!

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liquidsquid, I haven't looked at the post in a couple weeks, so thanks for the reply. We did dig 7 test holes down 8' and didn't hit slate, and the plan is to only dig 6' at most. It has been so wet that the contractor I was hoping would do it said he was booked through next summer, even with the DEC OK. Thanks for the encouragement.

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There is a reputable pond excavator right down the road from me. He moved in about 2 years after my pond was dug. (The irony of my leaky pond hurts) His specialty is wetland restoration so he is familiar with working with some wet soils. However, he doesn't appear to advertise at all, but he owns his own equipment. I will knock on his door when I get a chance, though you may be far from him.

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liquidsquid, thanks. East Bloomfield is about 1hr 20min from here so not out of the question if they are willing. Can you share their name or the town they are in? In any case, thanks again.

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I am not sure where he actually operates from, if he is retired, or just bids on wetland projects that are a consequence of construction or word of mouth. I am having a heck of a time looking him up. The last time I spoke with him was about 5 years ago, so things may have changed. But he is in East Bloomfield, NY and looks to operate out of his home as he has an enormous barn to store his equipment.

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Just an update to this sorry affair. I had a 5th contractor out to give me a quote. This one I provided with the Storm Water Plan in addition to the usual topo maps, etc. It took a while, but he came back with a quote of $69,800, double the first two quotes. He sited the SWPP and said he would likely need to rent some equipment for the job.

My vineyard friend has suggested we purchase a used excavator and a dozer and do it ourselves. Sounds like a good time, but I've never built a pond. So I may go back to one of the earlier ones and see if we can make it work with intensive oversight. At this price I should widen my search, despite the added travel and time expense. Any thoughts are welcome.

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"My vineyard friend has suggested we purchase a used excavator and a dozer and do it ourselves."

Rental rates on earthmoving equipment were quite cheap during the Covid bust when I priced them in my area.

Unfortunately (for my pond building aspirations) my business has come back and I am working too much to take time to excavate my ponds. Therefore I don't know how much the rental prices have escalated since the bottom.

If you bought it and it breaks, you pay to fix it. If you rent it and it breaks, THEY pay to fix it. (Assuming you weren't abusing the equipment.)

Good luck on your ongoing pond saga!

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@ Retired on 40,

For what it is worth, do some extra homework pond builders. I would go check out the ponds they have built and ask to speak with the customer.

In my personal experience, I had an existing 1/2 acre pond that needed fixed. I also wanted to expand it to 1 acre. Clearing some trees, building a bench a new dam set me back $45k and left me with an empty mudhole and no recourse. Even my attorney said I'd likely get nothing if I sue. My neighbor gave me his info and now feels terrible about it.

I've since spent an additional $24k in repairs and have it sealed up. #2 contractor told me three things. 1.-Bigger jobs, require big equipment to be efficient. 2. Most contractors that rent will be more expensive and likely not be efficient, take longer and cost more. 3.- Without the right equipment they move less dirt to get the job done quickly instead of doing it right.

#1 contractor owned a D5 dozer, Rented a 240 excavator another D6 and a sheepsfoot. (8 weeks and did crappy job)

#2 Owned and used a 25ton rock truck, 300 series and 150 series excavator, D5 dozer, sheepsfoot and his custom built water pump (6 days work (2 weeks onsite with weather)and was holding water before he left)

Last edited by HTNFSH2; 11/04/21 08:13 AM.
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