Sevier County Pond Building Project
Introduction: Pond Building Project in TN
Over the years we have successfully completed a number of land improvements on a 46-acre property in Sevier County TN. In 2007 we timbered the property for pulp wood in preparation for later pasture phases. A year later we installed a one mile loop road and constructed rustic entrance walls of field stone harvested on site. Since that time we have worked annually to restore the original pasture areas and open up the impressive views of the Smokies. This year’s improvement was a bit more ambitious – a ¾ acre pond building project.
The Land: It’s Attributes
The property is blessed with a vigorous springhead that once supplied pristine water for local moonshine. (We recovered parts of a still in 2007 while cleaning invasive vegetation from the creek below). The creek flows gently from the spring beside a small field previously row-cropped for tobacco and corn. After a preliminary assessment of soils and grades we decided that a pond seemed feasible.
We are often called to discuss pond installations and repairs but seldom find sites or conditions appropriate. Many ponds are poorly constructed and/or sited. Several special conditions must be present to ensure pond building will be successful. Pond construction requires a thorough understanding of such conditions as well as a good deal of engineering and technical grading skill. It also takes work – a heck of a lot of it. Ponds generally also require special permitting.
Education: What we Needed to know Before we Began
We discussed the pond building project over some months before beginning so that we had a clear idea of the ponds final dimensions and appearance. The upper soils stratum was a bit rocky and somewhat sand-based but it seemed likely that lower layers would be more clay-based. Clay is necessary to ensure that a levee is properly compacted and impermeable. It was also necessary to calculate the amount of dirt required for the levee so no costly importing of materials would be required.
Consolidation: Efficient Organization of Men and Machines
We arrived with a mid-size track hoe and bulldozer the third week of September. The large maples, locust and poplars along the creek were felled and hauled for firewood. Brush was stacked for later chipping and top soils were wind-rowed behind the levee area for future re-vegetation around the pond. On day three senior operator Archie Boone began channeling the existing spring path to ensure water stayed below the future pond bottom. Shortly after, he began carving material from the core, the section of the dam below the bottom of the pond which serves to lock the dam in place. This is the crucial portion of the dam most folks fail to correctly construct.
After the levee core was correctly compacted we installed 120’ of 6” pvc pipe in the re-contoured spring channel for the future “stand-pipe” and began carving “lifts’ of dirt from the pond basin area and placing them over the pipe. Each lift was meticulously spread and compacted and soon the basic shape of the dam began to appear. Because the pond lies on gently sloping ground a large portion of the excavation needed to happen below our initial grade. In other words, we were digging a giant hole. In doing so the perimeter contour of the pond began to emerge. As anticipated we also uncovered higher quantities of clay as we carved material from the pond bottom.
Despite heavy rains that twice turned the site into a quagmire the pond was constructed inside three weeks. The stand pipe, complete with a custom clean-out flapper valve and stainless steel drain chain was installed after all contouring was completed. The top of the vertical pipe was set to the static pond level. The pond slowly began to fill. Final touches, including external finish grading, constructing a wide overflow notch beside the levee and re-vegetation occurred while the water level rose. The pond will soon be stocked and landscaped. Special thanks to senior V & V grading foreman Archie Boone…It is always a great privilege to work at the foot of a master.