news from the waterfront by Tim Matson
HIGH TIME FOR POND WORK
High summer is one of the best times to enjoy your pond, so don't let me spoil your fun with a list of chores. Being a procrastinator myself, I get the urge to ditch that to-do list and put up the Gone Fishin' sign. But I also feel obliged to point out that summer can be a good time for pond work that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to accomplish. And save some money.
If you're planning to build a pond and need to zero in on the best site, high summer is the best time to dig those all-important test pits. You want to know
how your water table behaves under duress, so you can figure out how much extra water you may need to keep the pond full and healthy when the weather is dry. Test pits dug when the ground is saturated in spring or late fall may give you false confidence in your water supply.
If you're doing any work with heavy machines, even just a tractor, dry weather is the time when moving equipment around is least likely to do damage to your fields and lawns. Or get stuck.
Pond construction generally goes best/easiest in the driest time of the year. Access for equipment is least likely to present problems with saturated soils. It can be easier to get to the site, and the site itself may present the fewest problems working in a flooded area. And if the site has to be drained, well, the drier the site the easier to drain and keep drained. Drying out the site can be accomplished with pumps, ditching, or diverting inflows. That process will naturally go best when water tables and runoff are low.
Keep in mind also that when wet weather throws spokes in the pond repair or construction process, the wheels slow down but the clock still runs and costs go up. Summer can save money.
Maybe you're considering buying a property with an existing pond. Not a bad idea, considering the permitting challenges a new pond builder can face. Summer is a good time for sizing up established ponds. If a pond has problems, they are likely to surface in the summer, so you can get a handle on the challenges you might face. Pond scum, algae, and invasive plant problems will show up in summer. Water supply shortages will be apparent in hot weather. You might even do a water test to check for coliform bacteria, which can be most active in hot weather. Pond savvy can make you a smart buyer.
If you already have a pond and it needs repairs or examination, summer is the time. The less the water suppy to the the pond, the easier it will be to do siphoned drawdowns, open drains, or pump down water, and keep the water down so you can check for leaks in piping or do spillway repairs or replacement. For instance, when the pond is not discharging via a pipe system, that's the time to check the system for leaks. If there is water in a standpipe discharge system when the pond is below the discharge inlet... well, where's that water coming from? (rain doesn't count). Could be a leak.
When the spillway is not discharging water, you should not be seeing water around the exterior of the pipe at the discharge end. True, it may be hard to differentiate between ground water seeping out as opposed to leakage around the exterior of the pipe, but summer is your best time to check, when ground water may be at a minimum.
Summer is also a good time to clean out inflow streams and spillways. The less water the channels carry, the easier the work, and the less the potential for triggering erosion and sediment flows downstream.
One downside to summer pond work is that you won't be the only one thinking like this. Contractors get busy, and it can be tough to line up the work. Book your time ahead.
August 5, 2014