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Maintaining the Function and Aesthetics of Our Clients Waterscapes

Pond Management

Northstar’s team is comprised of certified Master Pond Managers whos’ responsibility it is to maintain the functionality as well as aesthetics of our client’s stormwater ponds. However, not all ponds are built to function as stormwater ponds; in fact, many ponds are primarily used for recreation. Northstar’s team is trained to identify poor water quality in ponds and is prepared to provide unique solutions to suit the needs of each pond owner, whether that be recreation, aesthetics, animal habitat, or all of the above.

Pond Management Services

Shoreline Management

Shoreline management is considered one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy pond or lake. Creating a vegetative buffer along the water’s edge and landscaping not only manages erosion but also keeps excess nutrients from entering the waterbody and can be very aesthetically pleasing. These vegetative buffers consist of a variety of aquatic plants including sedges, rushes, aquatic grasses and many more. It is crucial to manage these vegetative buffers in order to ensure the longevity and health of the pond.

Pond Aeration

Pond aeration is also an important factor in pond management. Installing an aeration system can greatly affect the water quality, providing the oxygen needed for fish and other species to thrive. Proper oxygen levels can reduce the amount of sediment and organic material accumulation in the bottom of the pond as well as keep the water column clean and reduce cloudiness; this can also reduce the chance of algae blooms occurring. Several options for pond aeration include: floating fountains, diffused aerators, solar aeration, constructed waterfalls and many more.

Nutrient Management

Nutrients are produced naturally in ponds and are necessary for ponds to remain healthy. However, too many nutrients, known as nutrient loading, can result in toxic algae blooms, fish die offs, and foul odor. In particular phosphorus is the nutrient most associated with these kinds of problems, and even in small quantities can have detrimental effects on a pond ecosystem’s health. Nitrogen toxicity is rarely a problem in earthen ponds since it is easily remedied by oxygenating the water. Some of the primary contributors of phosphorus nutrient loading are caused by agriculture (fertilizers/manure), well water, spring water, and bird/fish fecal matter. Additionally, there is a process called internal nutrient loading which involves the breakdown of sediment on the bottom of the pond releasing nutrients as a byproduct. The two approaches in reducing nutrient loading are treatment and physical pond enhancements. The treatment option includes using things like Floc logs, phoslock, and other phosphorus reducing agents which are placed into the pond and are used to either absorb or eliminate phosphorus from the water body. Physical pond enhancements requires a larger upfront cost but, if done properly, will reduce the cost of maintenance in the long-term. Examples of physical pond enhancements include: Buffer strips, plantings, or floating islands. Buffer strips are intended to redirect nutrients before reaching the pond while the plantings and floating islands are used to uptake the nutrients and dispel of them through natural means. If none of the aforementioned tactics fix the problems then it may be necessary to get a consultation on the pond’s design, as a flaw in the pond’s design is often the hardest problems to ameliorate without a complete redesign of the system.

Aquatic Weed Control

Aquatic weeds, if left unattended, can quickly emerge as a nuisance to both the health and aesthetic appeal of the pond. The two chemical-free methods for controlling weeds broadly break down into manual removal and biological control. Manual removal includes practices such as using harvesters, heavy land-based machinery, or hand tools. The pros of this approach are that its chemical free, provides fast results, and generally doesn’t require licensing or permitting; whilst the cons are that it can spread weeds, is time and labor intensive, can be very expensive, and very often leads to the unintentional destruction of plants that aren’t considered weeds. In contrast, the biological control method utilizes living organisms like tilapia, triploid grass carp, and alligatorweed fleabeetle in order to control weed growth through a more natural approach. The pros of this method are that it’s chemical free, cost efficient, and provides a fishery supplement; whilst the cons include that it isn’t effective on all weeds and the species of fish should be chosen carefully based on the plants available, results are slow, permits required, restocking fish required, and there is a potential for a fishery imbalance.

Additionally, there is a chemical-based approach. When deciding what chemical to use it is extremely important to read the label because the label is legally binding and it conveys which species the product controls and how much to apply. Certain chemistries may be toxic to fish or ineffective on pants in relation to water alkalinity and hardness, so it is important to get the relevant information off the herbicide’s label and determine the alkalinity and hardness values for your pond. It is also important to note that herbicides may require a waiting period before treated waters can be used for various activities such as: irrigation, fish consumption, watering livestock, or swimming. Furthermore, it is possible to use multiple herbicides simultaneously in a mix but the herbicides must be compatible with each other; safe chemistry mixes will be discussed on the label. It is vitally important that each individual check his local laws and ordinances to determine what license or permits are required to conduct herbicide application legally.

Water Quality Testing

Testing the water quality of your pond is an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy pond ecosystem; with regular testing of a pond one is able to be more proactive in mitigating ecological disasters by seeing potentially damaging trends in the chemical composition of the pond before the damage has occurred. An aquaculture test kit will provide the means to test pH (6.5-8.3), alkalinity (minimum: 20mg/L, Optimum: 50-200mg/L {ppm}), hardness (minimum: 20mg/L, Optimum: 50-200mg/L {ppm}), ammonia, nitrite, total phosphorus, and oxygen (minimum: 4mg/L {50% atmosphere}). In order to determine salinity a refractometer should be used; if the salinity is below 10 ppt then it falls in a safe range for freshwater species. Although, salt content above 5 ppt will increase the corrosion of pumps and other underwater metals.

Fish Management

When attempting to make a pond into a fishery it is important that your pond be about an acre in size in order to have enough suitable habitat for both predator and prey species; it is common to use largemouth bass and bluegill. Other species of fish may be used in a pond but it is recommended to consult your local fisheries biologist to discuss those options. In unfertilized ponds, one can have around 120 bluegill (40lbs) and between 8 and 10 largemouth bass (10lbs) per acre. In fertilized ponds, you can harvest between 600 and 700 bluegill (160lbs) and between 30 and 35 largemouth bass (35 to 40 lbs) per acre. In a balanced pond 40-60% of bass should be 12 in. or longer, while 20-40% of bluegill should be 6 in. or longer. It the bluegill are thin and slow growing, or a large part of the pond is full with 3-5 in. bluegill then there likely an overpopulation problem occurring. To remedy this one could reduce winter water levels to increase the predation of bass on bluegills, draining pond and restocking, stocking additional predators, applying a fish toxicant, or seining to remove excess stunted bluegill.

Detention (Dry) Ponds

Dry ponds are typically dry basins, with a concrete inlet and outlet structure, that attempt to replicate naturally vegetated areas by detaining excess stormwater during rain events and allows sediment and pollutants to settle out of the stormwater as it gradually drains out of the pond. Dry ponds are particularly effective at flood control and preventing channel erosion by reducing peak flow during storm events and giving the water a place to be stored safely.

Maintenance of these systems is crucial for proper functionality; as these systems build up sediment, as they are designed to do, the amount of stormwater that can be detained is decreased over time, and orifices leading to and from the pond can be obstructed. Maintenance typically involves simple weed control, debris removal, and inspection of the structures that constitutes the dry pond, but occasionally sediment needs to be removed from the pond in order to restore the pond’s full stormwater storage capacity.

Retention (Wet) Ponds

Wet ponds are among the most cost-effective and widely used stormwater treatment practices; they are constructed basins that have a permanent pool of water and sometimes landscaped plants around their perimeter. As stormwater enters the pond, the velocity is greatly decreased, allowing suspended particles to settle out of the runoff; simultaneously, the ‘treated’ water from the previous storm exits the system as the new stormwater enters. Nutrient uptake via biological activity in the pond is also an effective mechanism for stormwater treatment.

Wet ponds are very durable and require less maintenance than other applicable water quality controls. However, they do require regular maintenance for optimal operation as designed. Maintenance on these ponds typically includes mowing, removal of dead vegetation/debris regularly, repairing eroded or undercut areas as needed, and monitoring sediment accumulations in the main pond area so it can be removed before the pond becomes eutrophic and completely ineffective.

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