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#567331 05/28/24 02:47 PM
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I am buying a place in Northern Utah that has a small ~24 ft diameter by 4 ft deep spring fed pond. Flow looks to me to be something like 10 to 15 gpm. Does not freeze in winter, cold in summer.

It has not been maintained and does not look great. I'd like to expand it and improve it's appearance, looks pretty ugly right now.

I am just at the hoping for something better stage, no plans or specifics yet. Any suggestions as to where I should start.

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How much room on the property do you have to excavate a pond basin that is below the elevation of the spring entry point? That kind of sets the size of your potential pond.

Is the pond currently in clay, or do you have clay available in your nearby subsoils? That kind of sets part of the costs if you develop a larger pond.

Are you just considering a nature/decorative pond? In that case, you can add a few trout and any of your local forage species. (And there are probably many other fish options.)

What about the pond gives it the unsightly appearance? On a pond that size, you could easily shape the shoreline a little with just hand tools, put down some heavy landscape fabric and then cover the edges with any of various types of rounded river rock that are locally available and are attractive to your (or your wife's) eye.

Spring water is typically fairly low in oxygen. Can you easily run 120V AC from the house or shed? A little submersible pump could be used to create a mini-creek or waterfall above the pond. (Just use pond liner to avoid water losses.) That would aerate the water a little, especially if tumbled over rock features, etc.

What are your main goals?

Just throwing out some ideas. If you add some goals to your post, there are many creative members that have designed or helped on lots of different types of ponds. I think there was even a new Utah guy that was on earlier this year with a small pond. (But I don't remember any key terms to help you search for that thread.)

Congrats on your new place and new (old) pond!

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Originally Posted by FishinRod
How much room on the property do you have to excavate a pond basin that is below the elevation of the spring entry point?
About 2 acres, more than I would want to use for a pond, I have no more than an acre in mind. My lot is long and narrow, about 100 ft x 1000 ft. The pond and spring sits about 4 or 5 ft above the 800 or so feet behind. The area below the pond is mostly seasonal wetland with a very shallow water table.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Is the pond currently in clay, or do you have clay available in your nearby subsoils?
No clay, mostly a silty loam, lower permeability than sand, but more than clay. It is on an old Lake Bonneville delta formation, not much clay here until you get closer to the Great Salt Lake.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Are you just considering a nature/decorative pond?
A more or less natural look, nothing fancy or decorative. Will probably stock it with something, as you suggest perhaps trout. Also have blue gill, crappie and catfish in some of the local reservoirs, might do some of those as well. I prefer them to trout for eating.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
What about the pond gives it the unsightly appearance?
Number of things, when it was originally constructed concrete rubble, big pieces, were used to stabilize the banks, want to get rid of that. The pond also has steep shoreline, I'd like some of it to be more gentle. The pond has not been maintained in a long time so it has silt and debris that needs to go. Another problem is algae, lots of it and unsightly. Also the only vegetation around the pond is Russian Olives, awful invasive trees full of thorns, they need to go.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Spring water is typically fairly low in oxygen. Can you easily run 120V AC from the house or shed?
Good point, I don't believe the pond currently has fish or much animal life. Oxygen could be the explanation. I will see if I can find a DO meter to test it. Yes, it is close enough to the house to run power for an aerator or pump.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
What are your main goals?
An attractive backyard water feature, as natural looking as possible. Something to attract wildlife. I would fish in it a little, if possible, kind of a secondary goal.

I will look for the other Utah guy, we have some unique permitting and water rights requirements.
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Congrats on your new place and new (old) pond!
Thanks! And thanks for your help.

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Awesome!

Lots of people on the forum have very dynamic ponds that are as small as 0.5 acres. Of course, they manage those pretty intensively.

Many more options at 0.75 acres, even more at 1 acre.

Do you have a backhoe or mini-excavator available for use? A silty-loam soil with as little as a 20% clay content can frequently be compacted to form a seal for ponds up to 10 feet deep. (Not guaranteed though at lower 20-25% clay percentages. There are other variables such as the plasticity of the clay, etc.)

If you could dig two test pits and take some samples, you might be able to send them off for particle size analysis to determine your clay content. (There is usually some clay in a silty-loam soil. Also, the clay content might increase with depth, that would give you better material to finish off your pond bottom.) If you have decent material, then your pond size almost becomes a function of your available room and your budget. Since your pond will be excavated, you will need to plan how to deal with the spoils (removed material). You can easily do the math for a long, narrow rectangle and make an estimate. Then add 20% more volume. Excavated material will always "fluff" to a larger volume.

Will you have a good view of the pond from your house or cabin? If so, I personally think some small hills beyond and to the sides of the pond look very nice - especially on otherwise flat ground. That might be a good way to get rid of your spoils. You can then enhance your new terrain with whatever landscaping vegetation you prefer - just don't use anything that will drop leaves that will eventually blow into your pond!

It does look like there is some filamentous algae growing in your pond. That is probably the reason for the steep shoreline. The more shallow the slope, the more photosynthesizing plants grow from the bottom - including the filamentous algae.

If you do expand the pond, then I would try to keep the steep shoreline in most places, except for a swimming beach, spawning beds, etc.

Any work you do must stay within the regulations. When the spring water exits your pond, does it go into a defined waterway? Is there a dashed blue line on the topographic map at that point? If not, then you might have room to expand your pond into that area. The limit of your expansion will probably be the edge of the seasonal "wetlands" on your property. You also cannot put spoils in the wetlands. (Sometimes seasonal wetlands are NOT technically wetlands in the regulations. If the plants and soil type and structures are deemed "terrestrial", then it is not a wetland.)

Once you have your rough plan, then confirm you are compliant with your county, state, and sometimes federal regulations. This is usually a good time to consult with the NRCS agent for your county. Most of the time you get a really good and helpful person. However, I have heard of some people that get a "No" man. In that case, probably best to keep them off of your property if you have some other expert guidance that keeps you within the regulations. Do you know any of your neighbors well, especially the ones with bigger spreads? They might be good info sources about working with your NRCS office.

I agree with you on the broken concrete for unsightly looks. If you do bring in heavy equipment for a pond excavation that is the best time to drag out the concrete blocks, dig out the Russian olive trees that need to be removed, etc. If you are going to rock your pond edges, buy full dump truck loads and finish off that job before releasing the relevant equipment.

If your spring provides "excess" water all year, then you should be able to maintain a stable water level set by the elevation of your outlet pipe. In that case, you could put down heavy landscape cloth and rock the edges from a little bit above the water line to a little below the projected water line. That will help somewhat with your maintenance duties to mow to the edge of the pond and the problems of rooted plants in the very shallow water. However, there is a trade off - the more rooted plants you have in the pond, the more nutrients they utilize and make unavailable to the filamentous algae! (You might want to read a few threads on beneficial pond plants.)

P.S. Based on your description, there is a chance that you actually have a "groundwater pond" rather than a sealed pond fed by a spring. Seeing a distinct flow out of your pond that is roughly the same volume as the water flow into your pond would be the best indicator of a "sealed pond". If you do actually have a groundwater pond, several of the things I said above are slightly "wrong". However, you still have the option of expanding a groundwater pond.

Hope those additional ideas I threw out help you with your further planning!

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Thanks Fishin Rod. I appreciate your ideas. I have made a little progress.

I am pretty sure the pond has no liner, got it partially drained and learned a bit more about it. Water flow is higher than I realized, maybe 50 gpm, cold 50 degree water. Also deeper, probably 8 feet at center.

Had a guy who does pond maintenance look at it and he says it needs dredging. I am sure he is right, you can feel a lot of soft sludge on the bottom, as much as 4 ft in places. What he said makes sense, however the price tag is high. He estimated 5 days at $3,500 a day. His company does a lot of this kind of dredging and pond clean out https://utahwatergardens.com/dredging-a-pond-in-utah/

I like the idea of dredging the pond, but would prefer not to spend ~$17k to do it. Pond that is about 65 ft in diameter, with only a limited deep area full of sludge.

I would appreciate thoughts of others, particularly a lower cost alternative.

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It looks like they are suctioning the sludge out of the pond by their method.

That type of work on a small pond is MUCH more efficient (read cheaper) with a long-reach excavator. Your pond is so small, a contractor with a medium-sized conventional excavator could clean out your pond in 1/2 a day probably.

He will be dumping piles of sloppy sludge. You need some place he can rotate and dump. You then need to spread and let dry (for a long time). Then you can move that material to gardens, etc.

My (non-expert) advice would be to keep evaluating your pond expansion plans. Once you make a decision, most of the work could probably be done with just an excavator if it is only a small expansion. Clean out your existing pond at the same time.

Glad to hear you have 50 GPM! For your expansion/clean out project, you will need to build a siphon or buy a trash pump with capacity of more than your spring flow rate. All of that type of work is much easier the drier you can make or keep the pond basin.

Have fun!

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Hmmmm....reading through this post and thinking about some that I've read previously. Power is close enough to aerate. I wonder if aeration combined with beneficial bacteria might help to reduce the muck in the pond. Up to 4' is a lot of stuff to excavate and/or breakdown naturally.

If you have time on your side perhaps there's a way to save a few dollars while nature does it's work over a year or two and lowering your excavation costs overall with less material present. Gives you some time to work on the olives in prep for expansion efforts / possible dredging in the future.


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Thanks guys!
Originally Posted by FishinRod
It looks like they are suctioning the sludge out of the pond by their method.

That type of work on a small pond is MUCH more efficient (read cheaper) with a long-reach excavator. Your pond is so small, a contractor with a medium-sized conventional excavator could clean out your pond in 1/2 a day probably.

He will be dumping piles of sloppy sludge. You need some place he can rotate and dump. You then need to spread and let dry (for a long time). Then you can move that material to gardens, etc.

My (non-expert) advice would be to keep evaluating your pond expansion plans. Once you make a decision, most of the work could probably be done with just an excavator if it is only a small expansion. Clean out your existing pond at the same time.

Glad to hear you have 50 GPM! For your expansion/clean out project, you will need to build a siphon or buy a trash pump with capacity of more than your spring flow rate. All of that type of work is much easier the drier you can make or keep the pond basin.

Have fun!
Yes, the quote was for suction dredging. A question, I see people talking about doing DIY dredging with pumps. I could buy a pretty nice trash pump setup for a whole lot less than the dredging service. And if I owned it could do future maintenance. I know I would not be able to do it as well as the dredging contractor, but it might be good enough.

Maybe combine that with an excavator? I'd need a pretty good pump to drain the pond anyway.

I have lots of low ground to dispose of any excavated or sucked out sludge. That isn't much of a problem.

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Originally Posted by Boondoggle
Hmmmm....reading through this post and thinking about some that I've read previously. Power is close enough to aerate. I wonder if aeration combined with beneficial bacteria might help to reduce the muck in the pond. Up to 4' is a lot of stuff to excavate and/or breakdown naturally.

If you have time on your side perhaps there's a way to save a few dollars while nature does it's work over a year or two and lowering your excavation costs overall with less material present. Gives you some time to work on the olives in prep for expansion efforts / possible dredging in the future.
That is an intriguing idea, yes power is close enough. The 4 ft of soft stuff is only in a reactively small area, the deepest. Do you think it might be possible to push an aerator to the bottom of that goo? Might that work? Half or more of the pond is only around 4 ft deep, it has about 2 or 3 inches of the sludge, not much but smells pretty bad...

Might it work to get a larger blower and vigorously aerate in the muck to both add oxygen for decay and to suspend some of the solids so they can just flow out the discharge? Could do that for a while, then switch to a more pond appropriate size aerator?

I was told that with my flow, ~50 gpm, that the added pond bacteria probably would not stick around. Plenty of bacteria down there already, LOL

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I don't think you can do it as fast or as cost effective as the guy who quoted you dredging.

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jludwig #567965 06/17/24 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jludwig
I don't think you can do it as fast or as cost effective as the guy who quoted you dredging.
Thanks, fast isn't so important to me, but cost effective is.

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The aeration/bacteria method will only *at the most* reduce the muck build up a few inches per year.

When thinking about dredging, consider how many gallons of water the pump moves and how fast you would dewater the pond during the dredging process if you didn't use dewatering filter bags.

You might want to look into those.


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Originally Posted by Alligatorob
Originally Posted by jludwig
I don't think you can do it as fast or as cost effective as the guy who quoted you dredging.
Thanks, fast isn't so important to me, but cost effective is.

I just don't think you will be able to achieve the same results as the dredging company unless you have two to three weeks free to solely dedicated to this task. The dredging company does this all the time. You will have a huge learning curve which will slow progress.

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