Pond and Lake Failures During Heavy Rainfall Events



Failed Dam. A dam breach will be as wide as the water depth. If the water at the dam face is 14′ deep, the hole in your dam will be 14′ wide. (This failure is NOT a SoilMovers lake  building project.)

Ponds and lakes are an integral part of most recreational land tracts anywhere in the world.  Many people consider the water feature on their land to be the most important, necessary and crucial component of their landscape.  In Texas and throughout the Southwest the “water is life” mindset goes back to the days when the frontier was being settled.


During the last few years in Texas and many other parts of the United States heavy rainfall events have damaged and/or washed away many ponds and lakes on private lands.  Roads and other land based infrastructure have been impacted as well.   Some of these failures are 100 freak year occurrence events and could not be prevented.  Most of these problems however originate from poor, improper or inadequate engineering and excavation practices.


The benefits of correct engineering and construction when building lakes and roads


How do you know if your excavation project has been engineered and built correctly?  The most obvious clue will be whether or not your lake building project appears to be OVER engineered and OVER built.  Through the years many clients have questioned my design regarding the extra free board on the dam, the seemingly oversized overflow discharge pipe or extra wide emergency spillway.  The proper elevation and drainage of roads along with adamantly saving top soil for later grass establishment  has also come under scrutiny.  I tell them all the same thing, “You will not truly appreciate any of this project overkill until it is too late to do anything about it and then you will thank your lucky stars that it was built this way”.  I cannot think of a single past client who has enjoyed paying the high monetary cost associated with quality excavation.  I can however think of a great many consult clients I visited to advise on engineering failures concerning their completed lake building or infrastructure projects.  One and all, they wished that they had done it right the first time, it is always cheaper to do it right the first time.


Different Scenarios for Lake Building Success or Failure


So why are most projects under engineered and poorly built?  Mostly it is about money with a bit of client  ignorance sprinkled in or just out and out deception due to contractor thievery.  Excavation is expensive to start with and even more expensive if you do it right.  However, at the end of the day and when everything is said and done a poorly built excavation project that you have to fix will be the most expensive path you could possibly imagine concerning a lake building project.


Let’s say that you wish to build a new lake, pond or road on your property or that you are repairing excavation based infrastructure that was damaged by storms or unexpected weather patterns.  First, as the landowner, you must realize that no contractor comes to your site to lose money.  Without your knowledge contractors will find a way to cut corners on your project if enough money is NOT budgeted to build the project.  A dishonest contractor will cut corners and steal from you to enhance their profit margin no matter what.  A less informed contractor will simply “do it like I always did” and hope that it works.  An inexperienced contractor will be overwhelmed from day one and may walk away long before the job is completed.


For starters you call the local contractor who comes out to give you a free estimate.  More than likely the contractor is looking for a job (hence the “free” estimate) and might tell you what you want to hear just so that he can get started charging you money to move dirt at your site.  Quoting an expensive price, far exceeding your imagined expenditure can be a sure way the contractor will lose the job before he even gets it. 


In an effort to practice due diligence in the planning maybe you contact a lake management company to come out and assess your project.  The lake management folks are typically good at selling you with fancy words and a lot of flash.  The lake management people will take the most profit associated with building your project and they will do it with the least capital investment; what I call “skin in the game”.  These profits must be tacked onto the project costs and you as the landowner do not get much out of it.  The ONLY time that a lake management company is worthy of what they charge is if they are on site ALL day EVERY day keeping the earthmoving contractor honest.  Most lake management companies will send a representative to your site once or twice a week for a brief inspection which is for the most part worthless to you as the landowner.  Of course, you will be charged handsomely for that cursory visit.

The RIGHT WAY to begin a lake or pond building project

So now what do you do?  You MUST find an honest and reputable earthmoving contractor that has the experience and equipment to build your job correctly. Look for a contractor who owns their equipment, has years upon years of experience and plenty of references.  Unfortunately on the Internet you can be whomever you wish and pretty pictures are cheap especially if you lifted the pics from someone else.  (Please note all of the pictures displayed on our website are actual pictures taken of our jobs.) Keep in mind also that there is no substitute for experience and it takes years of experience to become truly expert at earthmoving. 


I have been successfully self-employed in the construction business 40 years come 2019.  There are VERY few people in any line of work with that level of experience, much less in the lake building business.  I put the icing on the cake by staying on your site actually doing the work a true 99% of the time.  I refer to contractors that rely on a “supervisor/foreman” on site or lake management folks who stop by once or twice a week for inspections as “windshield participants”.  These people are never out of their vehicle actually “on site” very much of the time.

If I can be of service to you please give me a call or send an email. 

Contact me here.



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