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#552818 10/13/22 08:04 PM
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Damon K Offline OP
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Well I have my first pond and of course my first pond problem. Actually I have many pond problems this is just the first one I plan on fixing. We know the previous owners and they had the same problem so not a new problem just new "my" problem smile

The pond is a runoff fed 1 acre body of water that's at least 50 years old and has enough sediment to build a mountain. The problem is when the water get about 2' from full pool there is a leak on the dam. You can actually see the. water coming out a hole about 15' from the bank. Until I can get all the sediment out I need all the depth I can get so I thought this might not be too hard to fix myself.
Unfortunately the last time I saw it was in the spring and I wasn't planning on buying the property at that time, but I know about where the leak is located. There's a little valley where the earth has settled, or eroded away. At most it's about a 10 inch dip.

There are lots of crawfish holes around, so I'm not sure if this leak was specifically from one of those. I haven't seen any evidence of a muskrat or other larger animal burrowing. There are a few larger holes, see the picture attached. I'm not sure if the leak is coming from there.

My first thought was to hand dig a trench to about where I thought the hole was located. Probably 2 to 3 feet at the deepest so a long day but not impossible. I also thought getting a pump and seeing if I could locate exactly where the hole was might be beneficial.
Other options would be renting something like a ditch witch or a backhoe.

Once I have the ditch dug out I would mix in some other dirt, refill the ditch and drive over it a bunch with my Jeep to compact it down.

Since we just bought the house I'm little short on cash at the moment so anything I do would have to be on the cheap. If I can get that done before spring hopefully the spring rains will fill the pond back up to its normal full pool size. That would buy me another year or so before I could get someone to dredge out all the muck.

Thoughts?

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Damon,

Welcome to Pond Boss!

Sorry to hear about your pond leak.

Photos on the site are not currently working, so I will only speak in generalities.

I have done lots of work on my property on a very tight budget. I have learned (the hard way) that spending money on equipment is frequently cheaper than doing all of the hard labor by hand - since it is almost always more work than you think.

I would highly recommend renting a mini-excavator for the job you are proposing to dig out the dam leak. Usually you can rent Friday evening and use it all weekend and only be charged for a single day. (As long as you put less than 8 hours on the meter and return it first thing Monday morning.)

For example, I can rent a little John Deere 17D for $190/day. It weighs less than 4400#, so you should be to tow with a half-ton pickup. (Make sure you add the weight of your rental or borrowed trailer.)

It can excavate down to 7.5'. You will be able to easily operate it efficiently after 15-20 minutes in the seat. Even it you can't dig out the entire leak, let the HP do the bulk of the work, and THEN you can dig the rest by hand.

(The danger (IMO) for new people doing this kind of work, is excavating on slopes.)

Perform your excavation on the flat part of the dam by straddling the leak. Also, dig out as much of the backside of the dam as possible from the flat top of the dam - if the backside slope is too steep to operate safely.

That is just my two cents as an amateur, hopefully some of our actual experts will comment in your thread.

As regards compaction, I DO NOT believe your Jeep will compact your new fill sufficiently to avoid it washing out the next time your pond rises to full pool.

I suspect your excavation of the hole will be long and skinny, and mostly perpendicular to the long-axis of the dam. Driving one set of tires of the Jeep will not seal that. I would therefore recommend also renting a jumping-jack style compactor. That should be sufficient.

However, I have run those on soft, new fill before. I am 6'2" and 235# (and now old), but I could not operate it correctly on very soft material. Two moderately strong guys could very effectively compact your trench repair.

Also, you need a pump or bucket for pond water to wet your clay compaction material. It must be moderately moist to achieve maximum compaction.

Good luck on fixing up your old pond!

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Pretty much exactly what Fishinrod said, Your jeep will not compact the repair sufficiently at all best case scenario. I have fixed a ton of leaks similar to that, muskrat holes mostly, but also tree root rotting holes, with a mini excavator in small areas, to even rework the top 4' of an entire dam top that had massive muskrat damage. my way to tackle your situation would be to dig across it with a mini excavator down past the damaged area and past it a good bit end ways, then replace it in small lifts, assuming it is good clay, mixing a generous amount of bentonite with it, you will need to compact it with a jumping jack or similar in small amounts but that is a lot easier after you take the back side of the excavator bucket and compact it pretty good and smooth with it, then one person can handle the JJ better. first things first tho, you will need to eliminate the cause, like muskrats and such, crawdads seldom cause a big problem, they mostly burrow down, not out. another problem I am afraid you will find, if the pond has been down to a different level for a few yrs, the muskrats will go down with it, and dig new burrows and tunnels at a lower elevation that is under the current water level, as the pond fills up you are liable to find more leaks. Good Luck!


All the really good ideas I've ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.
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Damon K Offline OP
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Thanks for the information. I’ll swing by a few rental companies and ask about the compactor and excavator.
Will also look around for someone that sell bulk clay soil.
I will post some pics when I get to the project.

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You don't need 100% clay. That is actually more prone to cracking due to wet/dry cycles.

Depends on the area, but you probably need 30%+ clay with zero coarse sand or gravel.

Read up on how to test your soil for clay plasticity by wetting it and making a ball or "worm". (Internet article or video.)

Mike Otto's book, "Just Add Water" is a treasure trove of information from a dirt guy that has built hundreds of ponds. Probably a good investment for you on this job, AND future work maintaining your pond. (I have purchased several copies, because when I loan it to a friend, they ask if they can keep it.)

I think you can still buy it on Pond Boss.

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Agree about Otto’s book. BTW, he got his first job re ponds as a stick picker. That’s the guy that walks around the dirt picking up sticks and rocks that you don’t want mixed in with the dirt. They don’t compact.


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
Agree about Otto’s book. BTW, he got his first job re ponds as a stick picker. That’s the guy that walks around the dirt picking up sticks and rocks that you don’t want mixed in with the dirt. They don’t compact.

Dave, I didn't know that story.

That is literally the definition of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top!

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Mike sez that he determines whether there is enough plasticity in soil to hold together build a dam by: getting grandkids to throw chunks of the soil against his pickup door. If it sticks, he starts his dozer.


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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