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WEBINAR: Why Proactive Pond Management Is a Better Value Q&A with Our Industry Experts

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Following our recent educational presentation on proactive lake and pond management, our experts reviewed and discussed questions from our audience. There were so many great questions we just couldn’t get to! Take a look at their answers and learn more about the sustainable solutions you can implement in your Annual Management Plan.

Did you miss the proactive pond management webinar? Watch the recording here

1. What are the signs that my pond is failing? If you are concerned that your pond is failing, it is probably because you are observing the undesirable result of some kind of imbalance, like algae and aquatic weed growth or dead fish. These are signs that you may have a significant problem. But even if you aren’t experiencing a problem and just want to know the state of your waterbody, water quality tests are the best way to understand the chemical makeup of the water and evaluate the potential for problems. Water quality testing is the backbone of any long term integrated lake or pond management program. Knowing the chemical and biological makeup of the water, and understanding the potential impacts to the environment is vital. The key to success is utilizing the information from water quality tests to make changes that bring balance to your system.

2. What is first step when drafting a management plan? What information is needed? The first step in drafting a management plan is making a site visit to the property to determine what type of waterbody you have and how it functions. All waterbodies are unique, so understanding this functionality will give your lake and pond manager further insight into how it should be managed. Another thing we discuss during the site visit are the management goals. Understanding the stakeholder’s goals with the waterbody will be necessary to create a custom management plan. Next, the size and estimated depth of the waterbody needs to be determined. Once this information is collected, a management plan can be presented for review.

3. What are the advantages of having water quality tested through a professional lab?Water quality testing should be part of an Annual Management Plan to ensure you are staying ahead of any water quality problems that may arise. When using SOLitude’s professional lab, you will receive detailed reporting on the water quality issues present and what is causing them. Once the source of the problem is identified, our professionals can create a custom plan that helps you achieve long-term goals while staying in your budget. It’s important to mention that our water quality lab professionals are trained to ensure we are getting the most accurate results from the way the water samples are collected to creating a plan that best fits your waterbody’s current state.

4. How would you convince homeowners that they need to “get in front” of managing their ponds?Everything you own requires maintenance. For example, if you have a quarter acre of pavement on your property, and you don’t perform any maintenance on it, it will degrade over time. The more complicated something is, the more maintenance it requires. A pond is an entire functioning ecosystem, therefore, it only makes sense that it will require a fair bit of attention to keep it healthy and functional. Another reason you should “get in front” of managing your freshwater resources is to help avoid or prolong the need for dredging. Dredging is often the single most expensive service a community will face. Without proactive management, your lake or pond may require dredging services sooner than one that does implement proactive solutions. Another serious issue that can result from a lack of management is flooding. If your community’s pond serves as a stormwater retention pond and there isn’t a management plan in place to fight off sediment or muck build-up, it could lead to flooding which in turn can lead to permanent property damage.

5. Is there a priority list of management strategies to follow for a community lake that has limited resources of a typical HOA?It is really important to make sure that realistic expectations are established. Sometimes it may take a few years to get back on track and begin implementing proactive management strategies. This is especially true if you are working with limited resources. It may be best to start with a few key things each season. For instance, you may have to reactively manage algae and aquatic weeds with algaecide or herbicide applications for a few seasons while the community budgets for an aeration system or a shoreline stabilization project. This time frame may be much longer if the project is something very costly like dredging.

6. What are some major concerns of cyanobacteria?Most people heard the news stories this summer about dogs dying due to exposure to cyanobacteria blooms (blue-green algae). This is not the first time this has happened (and, unfortunately, probably not the last), but this was definitely an event that brought national exposure to the potential hazards of these blooms. It is important to know that not all algae are dangerous; there are many species of beneficial green algae that serve as food and habitat for native wildlife. Cyanobacteria, on the other hand, can produce toxins that may be hazardous to pets, wildlife and even humans. They can also produce taste and odor compounds that can be difficult to remove with standard treatment. Most of the time, these blooms are pretty obvious and sometimes appear as bright green scums or mats on the surface of the water. However, if you are concerned, it is always best to refrain from recreation and keep pets out of the water until it has been confirmed safe for use through professional water quality testing. 

7. Have you had much success with the new nanobubble aeration technology and how long does it take to see the positive effects?Yes, we are experiencing great success with the nanobubble technology in improving water quality and overall health of the waterbodies undergoing nanobubble treatments. For instance, one of our trials in Florida had significant results after 72 hours. All waterbodies are different, however, and depending on the size of the nanobubble unit, the current state of your waterbody and management solutions in place, nanobubble results may vary (i.e. some may see quicker or slower results).

8. What buffer plants best prevent algae blooms or nutrient loading? Determining the best beneficial buffer plant for your lake or pond depends a lot on location and the specifics of your watershed. First, it’s important to stick with plants that are native to your region. Beyond that, if you have more internal nutrient cycling from the sediment already in your pond, emergent vegetation like pickerelweed, arrow arum, and lizard tail are effective at absorbing nutrients already in the waterbody. If nutrients washing in from dry land are more concerning, you’ll want to focus on the banks themselves with densely rooting vegetation like black-eyed susan, cardinal flower, hibiscus, and goldenrod. You should stay away from woody vegetation and trees because their deep roots can severely damage the shoreline if they ever fall over or need to be removed.

9. Which proactive management solutions will best support my fishery while also preventing or delaying the need for dredging?There are many things you can do to support a healthy fishery and a few of them may help slow the aging process or possibly even delay dredging. Aeration is extremely beneficial for fish as it helps increase oxygen concentrations through the entire water column. This normally increases the area that fish can utilize as well. In addition, submersed aeration systems increase the oxygen levels at the bottom of the pond where organic matter, including muck and fish waste, accumulates. In higher oxygen concentrations bacteria are more efficient at breaking down this material, which reduces accumulation over time.

If you want to speed up the process of the microorganisms naturally occurring in your waterbody, we can supplement these populations with the pellet form of the beneficial bacteria. With regular applications at high rates, beneficial bacteria can actually help reduce the organic portion of the sediment at the bottom of the pond, a process sometimes referred to as “Biological Dredging.” When considering which proactive solution would benefit your fishery, be sure to consult with one of our fisheries management professionals. 

10. Could muck build-up contribute to flooding? It certainly could. If enough muck builds up to slow the flow of water through a basin or diminish its holding capacity, it could cause flooding. However, a more common problem seen in lake and pond management is muck clogging up culverts, pipes, and other drainage systems. This can very quickly cause flooding as well. 

11. What are the best management solutions for eliminating cattails and tall grasses along the shoreline? Shoreline plants like tall grasses and cattails can be effectively managed in several ways. Systemic herbicide products can be used to reduce existing growth and mitigate regrowth in future seasons. These products combined with beneficial bacteria and enzymes can even speed up the decomposition process of the treated material.

Physical removal such as cutting or hydro-raking can also be very effective depending on your goals. However, it is important to consider what will take the place of these plants when they are removed. Although cattails, Phragmites and other nuisance plants are known to take over and impact the use of a waterbody, they do serve as a vegetative buffer for runoff and can even uptake nutrients from the water. Sometimes after treatment or removal, the waterbody may suffer from erosion, increased turbidity or even algal blooms. It’s important to have a plan in place to address this after any shoreline plants are removed. 

12. What are the plants with purple flowers? (See top photo).The purple flowers above are called Pickerelweed. Pickerelweed is a swallow freshwater aquatic plant that grows three to four feet tall, but typically you only see one to two feet since about half of the plant is underground. This low growing perennial plant is ideal when low borders or water views are the goal. It has creeping underwater rhizomes with heart-shaped leaves and violet-blue spikes extending above the water. Its beautiful flowers attract bees and butterflies, as well as dragonflies, which consume mosquito larvae. Pickerelweed blooms from June through November and provides excellent cover for birds, fish and amphibians.

13. Is solar aeration an option for properties with no power source? If so, are they just as effective as regular aeration systems?There are several solar-powered aeration systems on the market, and for some situations they can be just as effective as a hard-wired system. A particularly large waterbody could require multiple units, which may be cost prohibitive in some situations, and of course this presumes the site receives adequate sunlight to power the system. I have several clients who use solar-powered systems on small to medium sized ponds quite successfully.

14. What fish and/or wildlife would be beneficial to consider introducing to a detention pond to serve as an organic or natural weed control?Where legal, we sometimes use sterile grass carp to control submersed weeds. These fish are specially bred to be infertile and eat tremendous amounts of vegetation, but because they are non-native they are regulated and can only be used under certain circumstances. Other than that, the particular species present in a pond isn’t as important as making sure you don’t have too many of any one thing. If you only have bluegill, for instance, with no predator fish like bass, they may overpopulate the pond, stunt each other’s growth, and contribute to an unbalanced ecosystem that can lead to fish kills, improper nutrient cycling, and a whole host of unpleasant consequences.

15. If I have a fountain or diffused aeration system on my property, is it necessary to take any steps to ensure proper functionality? (i.e. cleaning, replacing parts, etc.)As with any electrical device, there is some maintenance and occasional repair required. A fountain is an electrical device you submerge in water, so there is an inherent problem with that system that needs to be mitigated against. The motor of these systems typically uses a rotary seal and oil that need to be replaced periodically to keep water out of the electrical components. Also, the impeller, debris screen or nozzle may periodically become clogged and need to be cleared. There are also several electrical components that may periodically require replacement (capacitors, breakers, contractors, etc.).

A submersed aeration system keeps all of the electrical components on dry land, so there are some issues fountains have that aerators don’t, but they typically have air filters that require periodic replacement, and may also use carbon vanes that are meant to be replaced every few years.

Both systems are mechanical devices prone to the same wear and tear as any machine and should therefore be monitored and maintained accordingly. We offer annual maintenance services for both types of systems in which a technician will periodically inspect your system to keep on top of necessary maintenance and repairs and help prevent catastrophic failures.

16. How often should you test your water quality?This depends somewhat on the waterbody in question and its history. If the lake or pond has a history of fish kills or other water quality issues, you’re going to want to test more frequently or at least until the situation is stabilized.

If I’m starting off monitoring a waterbody that is generally in good health, I would like at least a few samples to see how the water chemistry changes seasonally. If we find that conditions are relatively stable, we might then decide to test less frequently – maybe once or twice a year to watch for seasonal or long-term changes. Conversely, if we see that there are particular chemistry parameters that change substantially or need adjustment, we might suggest testing them more frequently.

17. How long do Biochar bags last in a waterbody before they need to be removed and replaced?Biochar bags could be effective for a few months or even a few years depending on the nutrient pollution present. If there are higher concentrations of excess nutrients or other contaminants present, more bags may be required or they may need to be replaced more often. When incorporated into an annual management contract, we typically install them in the spring and remove them at the end of the season or when they are replaced the following year. The “used” bags can be cut open and the material can be used as a soil amendment to improve water sequestration, soil microbe health, and help fertilize plants.

18. What is the process to determine how much sediment build-up has occurred over the lifespan of the lake? There are various ways to determine how much sediment or organic material has accumulated. If detailed information is required, a survey needs to be completed to physically measure the water and sediment depths. The process usually includes mapping the bottom of the lake or pond along with manual probe measurements of the sediments on a grid pattern. From this information, estimates can be made on sediment volumes and areas of significant accumulation. This helps if only certain areas need to be focused on. Depending on the scale of the project, specialized sonar equipment can be utilized by trained professionals to generate the same information.

19. Have you had success with adding pond dyes both early and throughout the year to reduce transparency and slow invasive plant growth?It can be helpful to apply aquatic dye early in the season to reduce aquatic plant growth. However, it is important to maintain concentration or shade of color throughout the season. Aquatic dye products are broken down by UV light and can be diluted from precipitation or other water exchange. Depending on the plant species and density of growth, other eco-friendly solutions may be more effective, including benthic barriers, low dose or reduced risk herbicides, or physical removal options.

20. What is the best way to determine the composition of your lake or pond bottom (silt vs. muck)? Is biological dredging or physical dredging more effective?The best way to determine organic composition is through a sediment analysis. Labs, including SOLitude’s, can complete a detailed analysis to determine the percentage of the organic material present. Sometimes it is also helpful to complete a particle size analysis. Organic material or muck is usually a very fine particle size and sand is much larger. An aggressive biological augmentation program, completed at high rates, can help reduce or condense the layers of organic accumulation, but will have no effect on inorganic material such as sand or silt. Based on the results, expectations and budget, an effective program can be developed.

21. Can only a section of a lake be dredged at a time?Yes, dredging can be completed with a phased approach. We often offer this approach so stakeholders can fit dredging projects into their budget plans for their waterbodies. We recommend having mapping and sediment surveys conducted beforehand to help guide the planning of a dredge project. This mapping survey is called a bathymetric study and it produces very valuable information that is crucial for most phased dredging approaches. The study will produce 3D imagery of the lake or pond bottom and showcase areas where the sediment has accumulated. From there, dredge plans can be made to target areas of most concern.

22. Do SOX Erosion Control Systems need permits?Permitting requirements can vary greatly by municipality. SOX Systems may be a newer technology for your local municipality so It’s important to check if a permit is needed. SOLitude’s professional lake and pond managers can assist you throughout this process.

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