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LABS. You owned a company that built ponds? Boy do I have a lot of questions for you!

I've been hoping to build a large (perhaps 1 acre) pond in our backyard. It's lowland river bottom property, and would only need to be 4-5 ft deep, but keeping it full of water would be my biggest challenge.

I had our soil and conservation folks come out and do a core drill to see if we could hold water, but it was a little too porous and would likely drain out.

We do have clay in the area, and I could likely line it with 12-20 inches of clay, which seemed like the most economical way of doing this.

I hardly even know where to begin. It's going to be a pretty big job, and I really don't want to get in over my head with this right out of the gate. I also hesitate to go with a pond liner as it would be so big, and likely very expensive.

I contacted the DNR, and again, the Soil and Water folks, to see if I could get a little financial assistance, but they said it was not previously a wetland, so they couldn't help me.

I don't mean to hijack this thread. Just like BemidjiBasser, I'm just looking for a little helpful advice on how to do this, and not drop a fortune on the project.

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While I doubt that USFWS would help you either since it's not a wetland, you never know until you ask. They have a program known as Partners for Wildlife that used to have several different options and they may be able to give you some ideas at very least. There were some places around here that were not wetlands per se that they did help with. Our 7 acre wetland, 3 acres of which is a basin originally started with Partners for Wildlife until it was enrolled in CREP. It was not a designated wetland as defined by NRCS. Slated for Monday, we are deepening it with some USFWS $ assistance due to the drought.


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Thanks Dotch. I'll check that out. I'd kind of hoped that the authorities would have deemed the property as a previous wetland. It's some of the lowest natural property adjacent to the Red Lake River for many, many miles. At a minimum, it's well within the 500 yr. floodplain of the river. They won't allow me to build anything down there as far as a structure, so having a big pond would be perfect.

Every spring we have numerous pairs of ducks and geese wandering around our place looking for a place to nest. If we had a good sized pond, complete with shallow and deeper water, cattails, and numerous little islands for nesting, we could provide wonderful habitat for almost all the local wildlife.

We could also provide a wonderful sanctuary for migratory waterfowl in the fall, as they are often looking for a safe place to loaf and/or spend the night near the river. We couldn't, and wouldn't, "hunt" any of the game in our backyard.

I have access to heavy equipment for excavation, and of course can draw water from the river with a gas powered pump, to periodically refill the pond...if this would even be necessary. There is a natural drainage that runs down thru our property that would likely refill the pond naturally with heavy rains and spring snowmelt.

If I could get just a little financial assistance, and some advice on how to create a nice natural pond, I'd make it a reality this spring.

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Given the scenario you've described, access to equipment, and your attitude about the project sounds like it would certainly be worth a shot through the Partners program. Sometimes when folks like DU and PF are made aware of projects like these after they're approved, they kick in some $ to fill in around the edges too. Good luck! smile


This link should take you to the map of Partners for Wildlife zones in MN and give you the phone #'s to contact their offices.


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Sorry guys,

Been on the Ipad the last week... Hate typing on that!

Bemidjibasser, we did probably close to 100 ponds that size over a 10 year period. We used a mini-excavator sometimes, or believe it or not, hand labor more often than not. Most of the ponds we built were 3' max depth so it was very do-able for a crew of three to have it shaped up in less than a day of digging...spoils stay with thte pond for construction of the biofalls. It'd Be a whole weekend most likely for one guy. We used the products from Aquascape Inc. and built them according to their style of construction. We built them bigger than yours and we built them smaller than yours, but we just sized the products up/down according to the size of the pond. Our clients were very happy with the finished results. I am still lucky enough to see a couple of them ten years later. The only thing both customers have had to replace was the pumps. Look up this company and their products and you will be able to see how to construct a pond yourself. It is actually quite easy. We prided ourselves on producing ponds, streams and waterfalls that look like nature built them and they were there for hundreds of years.

Canopy, we rarely got involved in projects of that scale. We did have one customer who wanted a 'swimming' pond. It too was in sand and we excavated it with a mini excavator, lined it with heavy poly that was intended for lining water basins and built up the shelfs with boulders and pea rock. It was 9' deep on the deep end and probably 3/4 acre in size. He actually put some sunnies and bass in it for his grandkids. It had a biofalls and plants in it also. He snorkled in it all the time. Ducks and geese used it as well as deer for drinking. Your project will be more of a natural pond, I'd maybe see if MN waterfowl would have any desire to create a loafing refuge in your area and provide assistance or at least information to you. I know DU and USFWS are more into restoring than creating ponds. Sorry I cannot be of a lot of help to you, that type of pond has not been my forte'... ours were more for astethetics than wildlife habitat. I hope you explore if any opportunities exist for you and can move your project forward!

Good Luck!


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Yea, for sure. Thanks for the help. You nailed it on the head Labs. That's exactly the pond I'm looking for, but I fear the cost will be prohibitive.

I have no desire to put fish in it, nor use it for swimming, although ice-skating on it during the winter would be fun.

I need something pretty big, and something natural, that caters to all the local wildlife. Something nice to look at, not ridiculously extravagant, or immaculately artificial, just something that looks like it SHOULD be there, and serves it's purpose accordingly.

My time, and budget will tell if this is something I can pull off in the future, but yes, it's something I REALLY want to do!

Appreciate your help, advice, and input. I'll almost certainly be contacting you again in the future for more valuable intel.

Thanks again! Sam.

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Want to punch in a reminder to contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District office prior to doing any work in wetlands!For example: Digging a "pond" deeper in an already exsisting wetland too deep (6.6 feet)is a violation of MN State Wetland Conservation Act as it would then no longer be classified a wetland at that point, thus converting a wetland, thus problems. Also such alteration could affect adjacent wetlands, and could also be a problem..Just an FYI for those that may not be aware..

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Write letters to your local county folks, the soil and water folks, the DNR and anyone else you can think of and give them a detailed plan, description of the land, coordinates, maybe even current pictures.

A friend dug a 5 acre pond 20 years ago and about 3 years ago someone discovered Google Maps and in short order he got a ticket from the DNR, a lien put on his property by the Army Corp, and three years worth of headaches. He ended up having to fill it in. There was a seasonal 'stream' that went through it and the Corp asserted that it was navigable waters. Tons of headaches, costs for a lawyer and expert witnesses, just ridiculous.

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Oh geez! That IS ridiculous! Man, I can't even IMAGINE how PO'd I'd be if I'd spent the time and money to create a 5 acre pond, only to have to fill it back in after so many years!!!!! mad I don't think I'd do it! I'd come unglued!

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