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Serving: NE

Building a farm pond that works for you

Nebraska producer's project has provided a flood-control structure and a new fishery for all to enjoy.

It took a while to accomplish, but Gerald Bousquet of Hubbard, Neb., and his family eventually came up with a farm pond development plan that would work.

“It all started about 10 years ago,” Bousquet says. “We had a small existing dam that was 30 to 40 years old, and an overflow tube that was full and silted in. We were concerned about water running through the farm during rain events. So, we talked about doing something for several years.”

Initial discussions were about building a retention dam upstream along the spring-fed creek that flows through the property. A second plan began to take hold that involved rebuilding and enlarging the existing pond and installing a smaller outlet tube that would slow water flow within the watershed.

Working with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District staff, Bousquet not only planned the new 1.5-acre pond, but also developed a new grazing strategy and watering area off the pasture to help keep the pond water clean.

“The planning for the Bousquet dam was part of a special watershed project known as the Pigeon-Jones Creek Watershed Special Erosion and Sediment Control Project,” says Jon Krause, field representative with Papio-Missouri River NRD. “Since this dam was located within this specific watershed, Bousquet was asked to provide an easement to the NRD for the land and maintenance access. By doing so, Bousquet was able to receive 100% cost share for the dam project.”

Other projects outside this watershed may be handled differently.

"This project is comprised of multiple grade stabilization structures, or dam sites, throughout the Pigeon-Jones Creek watersheds," Krause explains. "These dams were planned to help with flood and sediment control and ease the stress on the Pigeon Creek levee system that runs to the Missouri River. To date, 11 structures have been completed within the watershed, including the dam at Bousquet’s farm.”

NRCS staff provided technical assistance for planning and preliminary design scenarios to show the landowners the potential effects these dams may have, Krause adds.

The older Bousquet dam was identified as a site that would help with flood control for adjacent farmland, farms and crop ground running along the Pigeon levee.

“Since there was a previous structure at this location, the decision was made to put the new structure at the same place, even though we ultimately removed the entire previous dam,” Krause says.

They designed three grazing paddocks surrounding the new farm pond. With no water source, the cattle initially needed to water from the pond in one designed watering area. However, the banks of the pond became muddy and steep, and Bousquet lost a cow that drowned in the watering area within the first year.

“We decided to change the water source and drill a well, fencing the cows completely out of the pond,” Bousquet says. “Because there was no electricity for about a half-mile into the pasture, we used solar power. We also built a new corral system on a sidehill adjacent to the pond, with all three paddocks watering from a source in the corral or a reserve tank about a quarter-mile up the hill.”

The water was a crucial component to the grazing system that was implemented on the 120-acre pasture around the farm pond. Of the three 40-acre paddocks developed on the pasture, one is entirely comprised of bromegrass.

Another paddock is 50% brome and 50% native grass, with a third paddock consisting of some timber and native grass. All three paddocks water from the tank sources. Bousquet also was able to access NRD and NRCS cost share for this portion of the overall project.

When it came time to stock the new dam with fish, Bousquet talked with Jeff Blaser, private waters specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

“We typically recommend stocking largemouth bass and bluegill, which NGPC can provide, in warmwater ponds,” Blaser says. “Channel catfish can also be considered, at the cost of the landowner, if harvest will occur. Other fish species could be considered if suitable habitat is present.”

Blaser says that fisheries should be a consideration in the early stages of pond development. “When producers are initially considering building or rebuilding their pond is a good time to contact us,” Blaser says. “The sooner the better, so we can discuss the entire process, including construction or renovation, stocking and management.”

NGPC personnel could conduct a site visit or sample the pond, and then correspond with producers as the project commences. Blaser likes to mail out literature on pond management, as well as the Nebraska Pond Management guidebook to help producers understand stocking policy and application, sandpit management, vegetation control, and other topics related to building, stocking and maintaining a farm pond fishery.

The Bousquet pond is about 12 to 15 feet deep. The first stocking was with bluegill, Bousquet says. They then followed with bass. NGPC fisheries staff brought the fish by truck to his farm location for the stocking process.

Bousquet says the entire look of the pond has changed since the new development. It no longer is silted in, and the water quality is high. “We really enjoy bringing the grandchildren to the pond,” he says. It has provided use as a flood-control structure and a new fishery for all to enjoy.

“If you are thinking about this kind of project, I would advise going to the local NRD and NRCS offices and get a plan together,” Bousquet says. “They can help you make decisions and help you decide what you want to do.”

Cost-share funding for the project came from NRCS through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program — as well as survey, design work and start-to-finish construction inspection. The NRD offered funding through the Conservation Assistance Program, along with assistance for the watering and grazing system.

Krause says that because the Pigeon-Jones watershed is a special project, more incentives still are available to landowners for projects within the area’s boundaries.

“Along with EQIP, the NRD can still help with funding outside the watershed for producers interested in installing a dam or other structural practices that will control erosion, trap sediment and improve water quality,” he adds.

For more information on farm pond fisheries, contact Blaser at 402-471-5435. To learn more about the Bousquet dam project, call Krause at 402-494-4949.

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