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Water Control  RSS feed

 
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I just purchased a property that has a low lying area with a small creek (about 2-3 feet across and a few inches deep). The property is a square and the creek forms a triangle in the south east corner, I have attached an image. The ground on both sides of the creek, maybe about 10-15 feet is very soggy and marshy in the lower more southern part of the property. I was wondering what everyones thoughts were about controlling this water so that the land can be used for pasture. I was thinking about putting in a small run-ff pond, but have no experience with this and was hoping for some advice.

Thanks
property1.jpg
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pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I will here reiterate the advice I give to most newcomers onto property: observe, observe, observe! Preferably for a full year, before making any high-impact interventions on the site. I would especially emphasize this where surface water and wetlands are concerned.....such habitats often harbor rare species, some of which are only visible for relatively short seasons. Water level can vary dramatically depending on season, and you will want to design with the maximum and minimum in mind as well as the average or what you see right now. The only exceptions to waiting and watching might be if you see active substantial erosion or toxic runoff taking place.
That said, I believe the general consensus is that wetlands, especially those that are permanently wet or wet for significant parts of the year, don't usually mix well with most livestock. The danger is from continual overuse, resulting in trampling, exposure of soil, and consequent erosion of the banks and siltation of the stream, to the detriment of both. Most conscientious landowners with livestock try to fence off wetlands, perhaps allowing livestock in only during extreme droughts for brief periods, followed by long rests (this is actually a good practice almost anywhere as per Allan Savory). One exception might be for small numbers of animals adapted to wetland life, such as geese and ducks
 
steward
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Jared,

Since Alder has already addressed the possible ecological impact, my concern here for you is with who has legal right to that water downstream. Your profile doesn't state where you are on this globe, but controlling water when you don't have it fully contained on your land is a tricky critter in the US. Whatever you put in can't interfere with someone else's use of that resource, not without their written agreement at a minimum. You may think it is a small creek, but the rights to that flow most likely are shared with all the adjacent property owners, and they have expectations of that water too. My two cents, but check before doing anything.

Bill
 
jared fink
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Thanks for your replies.

I don't intend to alter the flow of the stream, my concern is the wet ground around the creek. I was thinking an embankment pond to help capture the moisture around the creek in the lower elevation area, which is also a lower elevation for the whole property. In a nut shell, the property is sloped from the north east to the south west, so I am assuming, the area is wet from run-off from the whole property, not from residual run-off from the creek bed. I would not want to use this area as pasture unless I could control the wet soil. It's just an idea. I live in North Carolina in an area that is pretty much all sand loam soil. So, drainage should be pretty good.
 
Bill Erickson
steward
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Ah, I understand the wet soil thing. I lived Down East in Craven County for a large chunk of my 20 years in the Marines. When I first bought my house, standing water and then mucky soil was the standard until I got it built up and got the drainage areas cut so the water would flow off. Grassy little swales were my savior then.

Are you in the piedmont region, farther west or more towards the coast? From that topo I'm thinking you're more piedmont but edging towards the coast. I think your embankment pond is a good idea, which is basically an on contour swale that holds water, if I have it right. It would allow you a means to retain water for your stock but put that mucky area to work. Alder's idea of restricted acces by your stock is important to maintain the quality of it, adding some marsh loving plantings to the area (reed, catttail, and so on) would also provide whatever critters might be inhabiting the mucky area a nice place to hang out and offer a more gradual transition. Still, observe a couple of cycles of the seasons to make sure you aren't going to drive out something cool.
 
jared fink
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I actually live in Moore County, which would be south west of Piedmont, just west of Bragg.

Could you explain how to plan and build such a thing? According to our soil report, the area in question is no good for ponds...I dont see how thats possible with all the standing water. Would it be a good idea to dig in and around the creek, so that the creek provides a means to keep the water fresh?
 
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Dig a deep enough pond and can use the fill dirt to build up the surrounding areas. Soil report could be generalized, though if it is soggy, maybe sometimes of the year it isn't, and the pond you create will be a water table pond that fluctuates a lot. I'm sure with some time watching it, you'll have a better idea what you can do.
 
Bill Erickson
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According to NC-pedia (it's what my google-fu came up with that had a map), Moore is on the eastern boundary of the piedmont and east of it begins the coastal plains.

Anyway, back to topic. I think Lance has given the best advice, watch it and see what happens with it to see what goes on there. Making a deep swale or even a HugelKultur mound would probably be the way, using the spoil from the hole to build your berm. This process will require machinery that won't get stuck in the muck/mud. Basically an excavator being the most useful, but a skilled person with a backhoe might work.
 
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jared fink wrote:

Could you explain how to plan and build such a thing? According to our soil report, the area in question is no good for ponds...I dont see how thats possible with all the standing water. Would it be a good idea to dig in and around the creek, so that the creek provides a means to keep the water fresh?



I personally wouldn't touch this area with pasture animals.

As was mentioned, digging in the creek could cause you a lot of problems with your downstream neighbors if not your governing bodies.

A swale is a pond, but it does not necessarily hold water but lets it infiltrate into the subsoil and / or feed plants planted in the downhill berm, in the swale itself, or downslope. If what you say is true of your soil report, then you may have trouble ponding upslope without a liner. You could deliver muckier material to the pond bottom to make it water tight. Also with the soil type you describe, it is likely that your wet area is indeed a saturated water table at surface level, or that because of it's low location and the bend in the creek that the increased organic content there has caused it to hold more water. Could be that since it's the low area and a bend that it's a silt trap where the rest of your property is sandy: all creeks are flows of not just water but of nutrients and aggregates. Hard to say without digging a bit with a spade and watching things over a couple years.

A catchment pond or swale (with down slope hugulkultur or swale mound) above your wet site without a liner may not help this situation, as it may just serve to charge your water table at the wet site. What you plant makes a difference, if it can draw up a large volume of water and transpire (plant talk for breathing out) the moisture into the air. Willows and cattails, for instance, will draw up and throw water into the air, as do lushly vegetative plants like comfrey. If you really must get the water away from this area, what you might want to consider is creating an upslope, slightly off contour ditch/swale, and draining the upslope flow away from this wetland area, and possibly into a pond who's overflow goes into the creek downstream.

But, I would not hazard to direct you to do that, or anything without looking at the site over time and sussing out why it is that you feel it's necessary to use this particular area for pasture. You may be able to manage your animals more effectively on the existing pasture (short rotations through small paddocks ) and leave this area, and the entire creek, out of the animal zones.

I've done some repeating of others here. There's probably enough good advice on these responses already without my one two cents. But there you have it !
 
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