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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
"In the age of information, ignorance is a choice." - Donny Miller
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.)
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)
FishinRod and HTNFSH2, thanks for the input. Yes there is a risk in buying used equipment, but it takes the timing out of the equation vs. renting. We are talking about a Cat 320 series excavator and probably just a D5. Would rent the sheepsfoot because the cost is low. Still would rather have someone more experienced do it. There seem to be few PondBoss forum members in my area to suggest dirt diggers, and many of the ponds near were dug by the Amish, so "outside the Law" so to speak. Thanks again.
FWIW I stopped at the local pond guy's place twice now, nobody home. Try calling these guys: Clearly Aquatics, Bloomfield, NY. they service ponds but last time I called they could recommend some well-known contractors that build ponds. I am not sure of their status with Pond Boss advertising so I will let you search them out.
This place looks to be mainly a water garden / small pond type of company. If a pond management company does not have a short list of reputable experienced large pond builders then I would shy away from their services for good well educated management for larger ponds especially those ponds primarily for sport fisheries. Try looking more at the closest fish farms for suggestions for pond builders. Fish farms usually need good well built ponds.
Last edited by Bill Cody; 11/09/2108:46 PM.
aka Pond Doctor & Dr. Perca Read Pond Boss Magazine - America's Journal of Pond Management
Brief update. I drew a 1hr circle and contacted all the larger excavation contractors that would have the needed equipment on hand. None of them were interested in doing the pond (although some cut their teeth in the pond construction business). In addition, the 3 most highly regarded pond builders in my area have all passed away in the last few years and their businesses are defunct. At least I now have an official permit from the state and can start construction....
I bring this up in part because I am talking with a local Mennonite crew about building a barn for me. The proprietor at the Mennonite farm store suggested one of their pond builders, but all the same issues may be there with proper equipment, etc. Just wondering in anyone else had gone that direction.
Went searching for places to rent equipment and found one that sold CAT and would rent a D6 and a 320 excavator. Turns out that they had a crew that would do the excavating, I talked with the "VP" and we worked out a contract - now signed. Should take less than 3 weeks to complete, probably in early May depending on the weather. I am handling some of the SWPPP requirements, filtration fence, construction entrance, seeding, fertilizing, and mulching, since I have equipment for that. Should be about 1.3 acres, 9' at the deepest, just under 6' average. I should post a diagram but haven't gotten past that hurdle yet.
Did you get everything permitted to go over the 1 acre restrictions?
I am almost up to your same "build" stage on my new pond projects. I wish I lived nearby, so I could watch that crew work. I am also planning on the D6 dozer with excavator combo. I think I can get a 340 here for just a bit more rental bucks.
The forum is a nice place to share ideas, but mostly vicariously. It would be nice to see work on your pond as well. A 340 is a good size machine.
The issue with ponds in NY is that you have to have a dam permit if it is over 6', so I kept it to 5' 8" and they said we should talk if things changed. I also needed a SWPPP and associated permit, and that was doable with the help of others. Fortunately my pond is in a fairly flat region, 2/3 dug and 1/3 dammed, so I get around a lot of issues as long as I keep the back side of the dam having a shallow grade. I have included some drawings of the proposed pond. The funny peninsula is because of a telephone pole. We chose this spot because it was almost too wet to mow and we could see it from the house.
I didn't mean for you to type out more discussion on permits. I made a few comments when you first started this thread. I recall you having a small permitting nightmare, but never saw a comment that you had achieved compliance.
I was just HOPING that you had everything all worked out on the permits side, so you could actually break ground!
P.S. I could not get your attached photo to open, even after logging into my Facebook.
Haven't updated this for a few months so I thought I might. The guys I hired brought a D6K and a D6T along with an excavator and roller and did the majority of the work in just over 3 weeks. As I mentioned in another post, we hit some veins of gravel/sand that leaked (water came in), so they did their best to not dig into these areas and I purchased 2 tons of bentonite and mixed it into 6" of clay at a rate of 2lbs/sf. I used this to "patch" over any areas that were dug slightly too low and this stopped >95% of the leaks. Overall, the pond is about 1' shallower than planned, a little over 8' instead of 9' as hoped, and we extended out some of the shallow spawning areas, but I think we maybe did OK.
We have gotten periodic rain but are in somewhat of a drought. This has made it possible to keep working. I put in some gravel areas and some topsoil for water lilies in the shallow areas. I have posts in the ground for the dock and am working of the spillways, inlets, and the beach.
I had put in over 450' of silt fence and a construction entrance, and the Department of Environmental conservation stopped by and talked to the construction crew; they seemed happy with what we were doing and didn't make a stink.
If rain holds off for another week then we should be ready to fill the pond when it does come.
I have included pictures of the entire pond, the "west end" with some structure, and the submerged island, and unfinished dock (I still have questions about how high above the water the dock cross-members have to be to avoid ice damage).
I agree with Sunil - every bit of structure you add now will be appreciated by many fish later. Any area away from the dock and the swimming area could use more structure.
I can't remember, are you adding aeration? If so, you could move it over near the dock in winter. The small open water area should prevent ice heaving from tearing up your dock, plus the other benefits of aeration.
Sunil and FishinRod, Thanks for the comments, I know it looks pretty sparse. I have a couple piles of brush and tree roots that are on my list to add, I am just focused on getting the functional details in place first, like building a weir and turnout to bring water in from the agricultural drainage ditch that runs along the east side of the field. The turnout will allow me to control the rate of flow of water into the pond.
I would hope to add aeration and that will come after I get some solar installed later this year, or early next year. Right now I don't need it...
I thought I should post an update 7 months later. The contractor finished the main excavation, dam building and topsoil contouring end of May. I had been making minor changes and additions using my Deere 5075E up until the big freeze came through and stopped everything. In addition to the 7000yds they moved, plus putting back 3000yds of topsoil, I moved about a 150 tons of clay, 100 tons of top soil, 80 tons of gravel, 2 tons of bentonite, and 56 tons of sand. Now I appreciate just how efficient bulldozers and excavators can be.
Overall I think it turned out fine except for limited depth brought about from avoiding glacial gravel vanes that sometimes plague the NY Finger Lakes. Instead of 9’ planned at the deepest we are just under 8’. The veins were initially unpredictable; when drilling holes for the dock poles, for one hole I hit sandy gravel and the hole filled to the top with water in a matter of hours, while only 10’ away it was all clay and dry as a bone. Because of this, I was able to dig the swimming area off the dock down another 2 feet deeper from where they left it, since this area was between two of these gravel veins. The clay was hard enough in that area so that half of the digging was done with a foot of water in the hole.
I have tried to attach a drone picture from late November, before the dock was completed. If this seems to work then I will add a couple more posts on what we did in building out this pond.
Update Part 2 I have attached a picture showing the inlet (left), beach (center) and spillway (right). The drainage ditch runs from left to right just above the bottom of the picture.
Water comes into the pond from 2 drainage ditches. The total watershed is around 33 acres. I have rerouted about 28 acres of drainage to a ditch that runs along one side of the pond. From previous rain events, I know this ditch easily handles the 2 million gallons per day one might get. This ditch enters the pond area about 9” above the full pond level and drops to about 2’ below the dam. This enables me to tap into the ditch as it comes in and later use it as the outlet for the spillway. To do this in a more controlled manner I built a combination concrete weir and gate. The #5rebar reinforced concrete structure has slots for a board weir and board gate. It should handle the large volumes from a 100yr event, ensuring that the majority of the water never enters the pond but stays in the ditch.
The main channel sides are beveled slightly which should help with ice expansion. Don’t know yet if it will survive winter but it shouldn’t have more than 5-6” of ice at any time. We were in a moderate drought and did not get any runoff since the first week of June so I didn’t get to try it out until just before the arctic blast came through last week and froze everything in place (went from 35 to -5 in 8 hours).
My pond is still 4-1/2’ below full but I suppose there is enough water frozen in place out there to fill it. There is a 12” conduit embedded into the concrete structure after the gate, taking the inlet water under a driveway. After the conduit, the water flows through 30’ of stone and 30’ of flooded sedge meadow widening as it goes before transversing stone and gravel covered geo-textile and dropping into the pond. The sedge meadow hopefully will catch coarser sediment and leaves from the hickory grove that lines the drainage ditch. The gate also limits the leaves coming in from the ditch and encourages them to go downstream. The gate will limit water coming in and reduce the likelihood of flooding and needing the emergency spillway.
I have included pictures of the dry weir & gate, it in operation, and after the sudden cool down. We only got to run this for a few hours before everything froze.
Update 3 We put in a beach and swim area using the recommended 15:1 slope for limiting sand erosion with a 15’x40’ level area at around 2-1/5 feet of water for beginners and for in-water games. Under the 6-9”of sand is geo-textile with 2” of #1/#2 smooth stone. It took 3 truckloads or around 56 tons of sand. The pond drops off to around 8’ past the beach so we added eyelets on the dock pilings and a fence post set near the drop off to run ropes with floats that will mark the kiddy swim course area. The top of the beach extends on either side into grassy areas to make it seem more natural and we added rocks for this reason and to sit on (one designated grandma rock where you can soak your feet while watching the kiddies). See picture in update 2 for overview and the three beach pictures included in this post. The flat area at the bottom of the beach made for a great staging area for dock building.
I had advice on the dock from a friend that used to build piers off the coast of MA, but I’m sure I didn’t live up to his standards. The completed dock is shown. I went with telephone poles cut about in half for the dock pilings. These run from 9-13” at the bottom and 8-3/4”-11” at the top. We dug holes using a 12” auger, placed the poles, and added 3 bags of concrete to each. The cross members are dual 2x10’s bolted to notched poles with 5/8” HDG bolts and square washers.
The attached Cross Member are pictured in the attachment that also shows two lower 2x8’s I attached to use as temporary scaffolding. This made it easier to do the notching, which I made using jigs. It also allowed me to stand out over the water to work when needed. The stringers are 2x8 and also bolted to notched poles where possible. I show the partially completed frame. You can see the 16Ga copper caps that protect the poles (my friend’s suggestion). We went with 2x6 planking and SS screws. I hope this holds up to the weather and ice but may need to add a bubbler at some point to limit ice stress. The dock landing is 12x15 and the ramp is 5’ wide.
The water is slowly rising so we don't really know how all this will turn out... fingers crossed.
Part 4 I confess that I only have a fraction of the optimum level of habitat but will start with that. There are 3 areas around the sides with a ledge at 3-4’ and about a 2’ drop off. In addition there is a large underwater island in the middle with steep sides. A couple of these areas have 7’+ deep regions or holes adjacent. All the ledges have 12x12 areas with smooth gravel on geo-textile for spawning, wired down logs, and small rock piles, as potential SMB and PS spawning areas (W Side Spawning Bed shown). Next to the spawning areas we put 4” of topsoil for water lilies (we have about 75 Nymphaea odorata Aiton in a small pond waiting to be transplanted should we get enough water, see picture).
The West arm of the pond has the most structure mostly on a ledge at 3-4 feet of water and a drop off to 6’ (see Structure W Side & Island). There are a few areas with logs, one pile of 6-8” ash, hickory, and cottonwood logs, wired down, a pile of 1-2” choke cherries with roots, plus another small pile of brush (Drop-off & Structure W Side shown at top). I don’t know if tannins will be an issue but doubt it with the limited amount. I also added 2 piles of concrete chunks and a section of pipe at about 6’ of water. The submerged island will be in about 3’ of water and it too has rock piles, spawning bed, wired down logs, and topsoil for water lilies.
The SE arm of the pond has the dock and swimming area, but it also has a point, lots of drop offs, a number of rock piles, and will have the most aquatic plants. We put rock piles, logs and a spawning bed near the SE ledge . Our intention is to add eel grass and emergents at the inlets, which should help with YP and GSH spawn. We added a couple tons of sand on the point near a rock pile ; there are 3 rock piles at the point at various levels. We have in total about a dozen rock piles of various sizes made from excavated stones, but little turned up over about 20” in diameter and those ended up on the beach. Good thing is that we have shale and lots of flat stones in the rock piles for FHM spawn.
Finally, with 3 peninsulas and 2 inlets, our little pond has over 1300 feet of shoreline which also adds to habitat. I bought a 7’ sickle-bar mower to keep down unwanted weeds and I only have 4 more feet of water to go before we see how the whole thing works.
Bill, I wired down all the logs with fence wire attached to one or two metal stakes driven a foot or so into the ground. The water is now rising to submerge some logs so we’ll know soon.
My philosophy was to restrain them enough so they wouldn't wander far but not to hold them fast. Most of them are a couple feet from the surface, sitting near a possible spawning site, so I am OK if part or all of a given log sits at the surface until it gets water logged. I have attached a photo of one such set of logs. The attachment is not beautiful but you can see one of the steel rods where the wire is attached, the other rod being behind the logs. If someone has done this a better way I would be glad to see it. I worked with what I had.
Retired - Your anchoring method should work providing the pond bottom doesn't soften and stakes pull out. Attaching just one end and letting the other end float up is a good idea to make useful structure.
aka Pond Doctor & Dr. Perca Read Pond Boss Magazine - America's Journal of Pond Management