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Planning and Building an Excavated Pond - Protecting the pond

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Protecting the pond

Construction of the pond is not complete until you have provided protection against erosion, wave action, trampling by livestock, and any other source of damage. Ponds without this protection may be short lived, and the cost of maintenance is usually high.

Leave borrow pits in condition to be planted so that the land can be used for grazing or some other purpose. Grade and shape the banks or side slopes of borrow pits to a slope that permits easy mowing, preferably no steeper than 4:1, and allows the graded area to blend with the landscape. It is often desirable to establish vegetation to make the borrow area compatible with undisturbed surroundings.

Grade all areas or pits from which borrow material has been obtained so they are well drained and do not permit stagnant water to accumulate as breeding places for mosquitoes.

Wave action

Several methods are available to protect the upstream face of a dam against wave action. The choice of method depends on whether the normal pool level remains fairly constant or fluctuates. An irrigation pond is an example of the latter. In these ponds, water is withdrawn periodically during the growing season and the water level may fluctuate from normal pool level to near pond bottom one or more times each year. The degree of protection required also influences the choice of method.

Berms—If the water level in the pond is expected to remain fairly constant, a berm 6 to 10 feet wide lo- cated at normal pool level generally provides adequate protection against wave action. The berm should have a downward slope of about 6 to 12 inches toward the pond. The slope above the berm should be protected by vegetation.

Booms—Log booms also break up wave action. A boom consists of a single or double line of logs chained or cabled together and anchored to each end of the dam. Tie the logs end to end as close together as practicable. Leave enough slack in the line to allow the boom to adjust to fluctuating water levels. If you use double rows of logs, frame them together to act as a unit. For best results place the boom so that it floats about 6 feet upstream from the face of the dam. If the dam is built on a curve, you may need anchor posts on the face of the dam as well as at the ends to keep the boom from riding on the slope. Booms do not give as much protection as some other methods described, but they are inexpensive if timber is readily available. They generally are satisfactory for small structures.

Riprap—Rock riprap is an effective method of control if a high degree of protection is required or if the water level fluctuates widely. Riprap should extend from the top of the dam down the upstream face to a level at least 3 feet below the lowest anticipated water level. Riprap is dumped directly from trucks or other ve- hicles or is placed by hand. Hand placing gives more effective protection and requires less stone. Dumping requires more stone, but less labor. The layer of stones should be at least 12 inches thick and must be placed on a bed of gravel or crushed stone at least 10 inches thick. This bed keeps the waves from washing out the underlying embankment material that supports the riprap.

If riprap is not continuous to the upstream toe, provide a berm on the upstream face to support the layer of riprap and to keep it from sliding downslope. If pos- sible, use stones whose color is similar to that in the immediate area. Allow grass and herbs to grow through the riprap to blend with surrounding vegeta- tion, but control woody vegetation.


Complete fencing of areas on which embankment ponds are built is recommended if livestock are grazed or fed in adjacent fields. Fencing provides the protec- tion needed to develop and maintain a good plant cover on the dam, the auxiliary spillway, and in other areas. It enhances clean drinking water and eliminates damage or pollution by livestock. If you fence the entire area around the pond and use the pond for watering livestock, install a gravity-fed watering trough just downstream from the dam and outside the fenced area.

Fencing also enables you to establish an environment beneficial to wildlife. The marshy vegetation needed around ponds for satisfactory wildlife food and cover does not tolerate much trampling or grazing.

Not all ponds used for watering livestock need to be fenced. On some western and midwestern ranges, the advantages derived from fencing are more than offset by the increased cost and maintenance and the fact that fewer animals can water at one time. A rancher with many widely scattered ponds and extensive holdings must have simple installations that require minimum upkeep and inspection. Fencing critical parts of livestock watering ponds, particularly the earthfill and the auxiliary spillway, is usually advantageous even if complete fencing is impractical.


Planning and Building an Excavated Pond

Ponds-Planning, Design and Construction, Agricultural Handbook Number 590 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)