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Pond overflow question
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Mike D.    Posted 02-03-2003 at 14:58:19       [Reply]  [No Email]
Last summer I stole some time from work and spent it on filling and grading a bad breech in our small pond dam. It took about 60 yards of fill and several days. Our drought made for a good time to do the repair. It is holding nicely and the pond is up to a level it has not seen in 30 years or more judging by the size of the trees that have grown along the edges.

My thinking was to let mother nature show me where to place an overflow pipe. She has obliged us that. The pond is now losing water at a place closer to the middle. The run-off has not yet begun to erode the backside of the dam. The water is much higher on the banks. We have been cutting back all the trees to make room for more fill and grading work.

Here is my question:
Should I lay the overflow pipe on the top of the dam where the water is running, then cover the pipe with more earth and build the dam level to that?

I hope to figure out a spot next for a heavy weather spillway to handle any overflow that the pipe can't keep up with. Again, I'll have mother nature show me the best spot for that too.

This is all pretty new business to me, so any help you offer will be help I didn't have before.

I posted a picture of the dam in the gallery. Thanks- Mike D.

Gary    Posted 02-04-2003 at 06:19:42       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I saw quite a deal last summer. A neighbor built a new dam and wasn't sure about what water level he wanted. He put some big PVS at the bottom with a threaded Elbow. He then put an extra long piece of PVC in it, stood it straight up til his pond got to the level he wanted it, then rotated the "stack" down to that level. He has a cable at each side so that he can rotate it from the bank.

Ludwig    Posted 02-04-2003 at 12:58:16       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thats pretty close to the way we do things. The elbow is usually iron pipe of some sort, but for the top we use PVC which is expendable. It'll get beat up by ice here so we don't plan on it lasting too long.
We'll just float a boat out and cut the pipe at the right height.

Mike D.    Posted 02-04-2003 at 07:28:09       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hi Gary,
Sounds like an interesting way of setting the level. I looked into stand pipes. It was several thousand to get all the fittings. Just couldn't swing it. I was about to lose the pond the way it was. May still lose it, but not without a fight.
Does your neighbor have any photos you could email me? I'd like to see his set-up.

Lynch in E.TX    Posted 02-03-2003 at 22:39:09       [Reply]  [Send Email]
My pond just overflows into a creek bed that is only about 30 feet away from my lowest problem is keeping my fish in my pond during storm overflows...I think I'm gonna rig up some kind of a wire mesh, because I only have to span about 12 feet across the overflow zone. It would serve a dual purpose of keeping cows from using that end of the pond and making it a bigger run-off area.

I would say put your overflow pipe where it is easiest to install and will let water out anywhere below the waterline, so I would think the higher and shorter the better. Lynch

Mike D.    Posted 02-04-2003 at 06:09:05       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks Lynch. Your set-up sounds close to mine. I think we'll relieve the pressure some and then install the pipe a bit lower.

As sad as the Space Shuttle accident was, we were sure relieved to read nobody down there was hit by any debri. It's a wonder.

Eddie Murphy    Posted 02-03-2003 at 21:11:55       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Suggestion; Its too wet now but you need the spillway in on the side where it can flow a long way with little fall. This stops the breach. The spillway also need to be wide , that spreads the water out also cutting down on the trenches. We use a pipe system PVC that starts down low in the water comes up in the dam the height you want the water to stop filling to then thru the dam and down the back side ,still in the dam to the lowest point. You put a tee in PVC as it comes across the dam and pipe to the surface vertical. That stops the siphon affect. By the way that is what I would do now, take a 4 inch piece of flex hose fill it with water and pull over the dam to lower water level till dry weather.

Mike D.    Posted 02-03-2003 at 21:25:20       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thank you Eddie. I'll give that some serious thought. I'd like to get the water lower without getting a machine stuck again...

P.S.- you were great in 48 Hours. (sorry, couldn't help myself)

TB    Posted 02-03-2003 at 15:59:24       [Reply]  [No Email]
It is hard to tell without being there but you could have a problem, most large dams I have seen has ended up with overflows to each side. The dambrest being much higher 3to5í This way any wash outs are easier to fix because you donít have to carry the fill as fare And you arenít running the risk of washing the dambrest itself.

TB    Posted 02-03-2003 at 16:27:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
You know this donít look good to me. Looks like there is way too much water in there. I think I would dig a ditch around the end to relieve some of the pressure.

Mike D.    Posted 02-03-2003 at 17:20:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
I like the idea of relieving the pressure on the dam. That would not be hard to do.

I couldn't set in a stand pipe last summer. The cost was very high for all the components. We have another pond sight that I intend to use a stand pipe for in the future, but as any part time farmer knows, you got to wait on the money to catch up with you. There are many ponds in our farm area that have discharge pipes on the top of the dam to relieve water, then a spillway to one side. They have lasted decades.

I will find a way to get some of the level down.
It is still firm on the side I could lower. The dam is very broad at the base. I'd guess it's eighty feet wide there. The banks slope very gently down to a bottom of about 12 feet.

Thanks for the advice. I'm grateful to get it.

TB    Posted 02-03-2003 at 18:50:08       [Reply]  [No Email]
How is that new spring looking you found?

Mike D.    Posted 02-03-2003 at 19:58:21       [Reply]  [No Email]
Wow, that was a post from last summer I think. Thanks for asking. It is still active. I have not disturbed it at all other than to put in silt fence above it. It is one of three springs that feed the pond. After some thought I decided against doing anything with it. It flows good to the pond after I regraded the ground between it and the pond. I believe that most of the water runs to the pond beneath the surface.
I'm nervous about this entire pond project. I felt sure that the dam needed to be repaired to the original height and width. It took a lot of time but the fill was very close and the right material according to a local excatvator. I 'walked down' each load of fill with the loader with the bucket full of the next dumping. I'm not the best machine operator so I spent a lot more time at it than a pro would have. Many trips to the repair were spent easing around the new work with a load for just the right spot. Then grading, then the next load, and then a 'walk down'. Over and over again. The bucket holds one cubic yard. On the steep I'd roll in to it with a 1/2 bucket with the bucket down as I have no brakes. Several times I thought I bought the farm, but thank goodness for reverse.

Ludwig    Posted 02-03-2003 at 15:32:42       [Reply]  [No Email]
Ooh, wish you'd asked before you filled in the hole... I think you're in for a toughie...
See the ideal over flow is an L shaped deal with the bottom leg sitting on the bottom of the pond and exiting out UNDER the dam. That way the weight of the dam helps to keep it sealed good. This type of drain does not go near the low point, but off to the side. That way if the low point goes out then the pipe will probably be safe.

In your case its going to be tough. You can't just have a pipe laying there and covered with dirt, the water will work down around the pipe and wash it out. Theres NO WAY to get it compacted enough. Maybe you could make some sort of concrete block where the pipe goes into the pond, but I'm not sure I think that'd work.

Also isn't now kind of a tough time to work on a pond? Even if we didn't have 4 feet of frost (as I imagine you don't) I figure it'd be a sloppy wet mess.

Honestly I don't have a really good plan for you, but maybe you could get some culvert. Then weld some rods onto it maybe two feet long in a star shape around the middle. Stab the bottom rods into the ground and then get some plastic or innertube or something and wrap it around the other rods, then bury the thing. COMPACT it good. DO NOT trust that a dozer is enough compation. Get a roller or something and compact every couple inches. Compaction is your friend...

Still I wouldn't trust it.

Mike D.    Posted 02-03-2003 at 17:39:36       [Reply]  [No Email]
Hi Ludwig, you'd be suprised to know that there are many ponds in our area with discharge pipes in the top of the dams. Go figure. Many of them have anti-seep collars welded onto them to prevent hydrostatic pressure from pushing them out checking erosion. Some just have red ceder logs laid down as retaining walls. They are backfilled.
Our borrow site for this repair was the dump sight where the shovel emptied as it dug out the pond in the twenties. There is lots of fill still available to use, most of it within 50' of the pond.
I know I got a bull by the horns, but with the wet weather we've had this fall and winter I would have lost the pond already in the shape it was in. There was a ravine nearly 8 feet deep where the old spillway was. It was pitifully weak.
The soil is sandy clay. It compacts real well as long as each layer is shallow enough for the loader to compact it. There is no seepage at the repair and the new overflow is 75' away from the old spillway. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll be make it right and have a good source to pull water from. Thanks for your input.
I'll consider what you said. Mike D.

Ludwig    Posted 02-03-2003 at 18:11:25       [Reply]  [No Email]
Of course the land is different everywhere, but here in New England I couldn't tell you of one pond I've ever seen with the upper spill pipe like you describe that has lasted, except for beaver dams, but the beavers fill the pipes pretty quick.
You'd definately need some kind of a collar or wall at the head of the pipe, thats for sure.
How high is the dam? Its hard to tell from a topside picture. Maybe you could take one from below? That'd give us a better idea.
My dad and I have build probably 100 ponds in the last 15 years, all are still in good shape today.
We're talking about building another one, our biggest to date, on our farm. This one will cut down on our mowing considerably..

Mike D.    Posted 02-04-2003 at 07:40:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
My land Ludwig,
You've got some serious experience with this. Our soil is sandy loam out in the fields.
The area of the pond is sand/clay. This is tobacco country. Most farms in the area have small ponds to pump from when it is dry. Our pond is a little over a quarter acre in surface size.
It is pretty shallow. The dam is very broad at the base.
I know I'm fighting time. It has worn on my mind. First thing I'll try next is to lower the level some. Then I'll set the pipe a bit lower into the dam. I'll use a collar on the pipe, and probably install a timber retaining wall and back fill it too. Cheap insurance given we got lots of cedar. Thanks again for your input on this.

Ludwig    Posted 02-04-2003 at 08:34:23       [Reply]  [No Email]
That sounds like the best plan, particularly if there are other ponds around that are built similarly. Here in New England your likely to have one of 3 or 4 kinds of dirt. The worst is the heavy clay in the southern part of the state. Hard as rock when dry, you think you've got a good dam, but then it gets wet and sloppy and pretty soon you've got a big blowout. That's very hard to work with and we'll usually mix gravel into the dam to give it some strength.
There are some gravel areas, but you generally don't put a dam there because they percolate to well and your dam leaks or never fills. In that case we've hauled clay (which is usually very cheap) and coated the inside of the dam and pond. Sometimes that can be a money maker for the owner, sell some gravel out of the hole and bring in clay to take its place.
Near my parents theres a golf course that put in alot of small ponds like yours, their problem was that it was all on sand. They ended up using plastic liners like a swimming pool. Cost big money because they wouldn't take Dad's advice to haul in clay. They'd have had to pay to get rid of the sand too. It pays to build your pond first, then the rest of the golf course, they hauled alot of fill to build that place...

Our existing pond was built on ledge with the dirt scraped away. This is probably the best because when they scraped the dirt away it helped activate the springs, this pond was all built by hand in the '60s, except for the dam which was built with a dozer.

Any dozer driver that tells you he can compact your dam enough is a lier, the dozer only puts down like 8psi. You need a roller or compactor. The best thing is a sheepsfoot vibrating roller but they tend to be pricy and then you need somebody "special" to run them, they'll shake your teeth right out.

Mike D.    Posted 02-04-2003 at 09:49:30       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks... yet again. That is a nice primer on pond construction. There is a wealth of experience behind it from my gut instinct. I will take it to heart. I never knew that there was only 8 psi under a track pad. That freaked me out.
I had an old D7 once, it was a cable lift machine.
It sure seemed to put down more weight than that.
But thats mute, the Case 450 is a lightweight compared to it, and that is what I used on the repair.

Ludwig    Posted 02-04-2003 at 12:54:18       [Reply]  [No Email]
Its not weight that makes compaction its weight over area.
Of course it'll vary by machine and by the type of track, its very easy to calculate though. Measure the length and width of the part of the track that touches the ground in inches. Then multiply them together to get area. Divide weight by area to get ground pressure. Or the other way around, I always forget, hopefully somebody will jump in here.
A big selling point of early crawlers was the low compaction and so would help crops to grow. Was a big improvement over steel wheels.

We were in Niagra Falls for our honeymoon and at the Guiness Book of Records museum they have a gigantic granite ball out front suspended by water. The lady stands there, tells you the ball weights like 3000# and asks the pressure of the water. Most people say "A thousand pounds" or something silly, I looked at the base and made a guess to its size, calced the area roughly, divided by the weight and said 2 or 3 pounds. Apparently its actually 2.25. The lady said I was closer than anybody she'd ever seen, including alot of engineers.
You just gotta think a bit...

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