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When Auburn residents Merle and Mary Ralls decided to put in a pond, they created a gathering place.
“We see a lot of ducks and geese,” Merle Ralls said. “The geese love it. At the beginning we were getting 50 or 60 geese coming in every day. But they make a heck of a mess. We get deer and raccoons. Deer are down there all of the time.”
Contractor Dana Andrews, owner of DLD Service, widened a creek to create the scenic lakelet on the property, then stocked it with 400 bass and blue gill. It is set in a basin surrounded by a gently rolling hillside.
The pond is about 100 feet long, 60 feet wide and 12 feet deep.
“It’s a really beautiful landscape,” Andrews said. “It’s really nicely tucked into the property.”
The finishing touch was a dock, where the Ralls go to relax and take in the sights.
“It fit kind of just perfect there,” Merle Ralls said. “During the summer season we have a picnic table on the dock and we go down there and have wine and look for fish — but we never see them.”
Ponds provide tranquil backyard getaways for homeowners.
“What I see in people’s faces when they get a pond is they like the serenity of it,” said Andrews, whose company builds, maintains, cleans and services ponds. “It’s not a tangible. For the most part, I find my customers like to spend time sitting next to their pond. It’s usually green, usually there are trees. It’s a nice place to have a relaxing afternoon.”
But ponds also serve very practical purposes.
“All fire departments in Placer County will pump from anyone who has a pond,” Andrews said. “You are impounding easily from 10,000 to 100,000 gallons of water. The pond actually becomes a very helpful asset in case of fire.”
And in many cases, ponds are storage sites for irrigation water.
“This is water the homeowner would be purchasing from the Placer County Water Agency or the Nevada Irrigation District,” he said.
Andrews’ expertise is in earthen ponds.
“They are dirt on the bottom and usually have wildlife in them,” he said. “Whenever you have a pond, wildlife will come and water there. You’ll have different birds, deer, bobcats.”
The average size pond that Andrews installs is about an acre but they can be smaller and much larger.
He emphasizes that earthen ponds shouldn’t be confused with ornamental ponds and swimming pools. Ponds are much larger. They are sloped for natural beauty and safety, and they usually contain fish and plants.
“Ponds must have a slope,” Andrews said. “They don’t have to be fenced.”
Planning a pond includes obtaining county and, at times, state permits and working within state and county restrictions.
Ponds that are built below existing grade and less than 250 cubic yards of excavation don’t need a permit. But all others do, he said.
Cost to install a one-acre pond with a depth of 12 feet ranges from $20,000 to $25,000. That’s before adding accessories — waterfalls, docks, pump stations and bridges. A dock, which most people want, runs $3,000 to $7,000. A pump station costs $2,500 to $5,800, he said.
Maintenance costs can be as much as $1,500 to $2,500 annually.
“That sometimes doesn’t come all at once,” he said. “It may be buying an aerator or having the pond sprayed for pests. Ponds are susceptible to things. Wild geese often have pests attached to them and dislodge them in the water. It can also come down the drainage. But if it is designed properly and is the proper depth, a pond can be very low maintenance.”
To keep costs under control, Andrews recommends installation of a water circulation system.
Most of the time, homeowners want the pond stocked with fish.
“In Placer County, no permit is necessary for certain kinds of fish,” he said. “But some customers want trout. Anytime you are relocating trout, you must have a permit to do to that. You can’t just fish for trout, bring them back and put them into the pond. That is illegal.”
You don’t need a large number of fish to get started.
“If you put 30 to 50 small fish into your pond, you will have a tremendous amount of fish in two years,” he said.
Choosing the right fish is also important.
“Bass self-govern their population,” he said. “Blue gill will overpopulate the pond. You need to use common sense and do a little bit of study.”
Koi is a popular choice.
“They’ll overpopulate so you’ll end up with a lot of fish and no place to put them,” he said. “I suggest people buy three or four large koi and also introduce bass to the pond. The bass will eat the smaller ones.”
For filtration, reeds are a natural fit. But they must be kept under control.
“You like to see a balance of life in the pond,” Andrews said. “You don’t want to see it maintained like a pool. You need to have some plant growth and grass on the edge. If a pond has balance and water flow, it tends to go on happily.”
At Mike and Diana Gallo’s residence near Grass Valley, Andrews tore down a barn and replaced it with a pond. It is lined with rocks and includes a dock. Cement culverts under the water give the fish places to go, Diana Gallo said.
“We love it,” she said
The Gallos, who have a pool service business, added their own touches to the project.
“We installed a pump on the side for intake and outflow,” Diana Gallo said. “I made a water feature that floats in the middle of it with just gravity-fed water. The pump comes on for a couple of hours a day. It’s really enjoyable. We can hear the water running.”
Reach Gloria Young at email@example.com.