West Texas Lake Renovation near Abilene, TX
“A silk purse from a sow’s ear”
My business is looking at land, figuring how to build the best recreational land tract and then building it in a cost effective and timely manner. Consequently, I see a wide variety of land tracts and each has its’ own personality and challenges. No two projects are ever the same! When viewing a new lake project, my first thought is always “What am I going to be able to do with this?” My second thought is “I have never seen a piece of land that did not have something good about it.”
The current project near Abilene, Texas is a 400 acre tract of land that covers a creek bottom as well as a relatively high ridge. When it comes to land, large mature trees are always a great aesthetic feature to build on but hard to come by in areas where the annual rainfall is not over 28 inches. With an average rainfall of only 24 inches this land tract is mostly covered with mesquite and cedar, surrounded by open farmland that is relatively flat. The only thing going for this piece of Texas dirt is an existing spring fed lake that is generic in design and the ridge that it is situated on. The fascinating part of this unique project are the springs that materialized on TOP of the ridge.
The goal of this project is to re-design the existing lake so that it compliments a new house and enhances the land tract overall. Fortunately the house was built on a high point so there was elevation to work with and the views were excellent. Bringing the water closer to the house as the ground elevation rises is typically best achieved by building retaining walls to step down the elevation. Materials to build these types of walls are quite expensive when trucked in but fortunately in this case the rocks were generated on site. When excavating the lake, I found a layer of cap rock that was ‘popped out’ and stockpiled for later use. Having a good supply of cheap rocks to work with dramatically changed the game plan for this project and I could sense that a “silk purse from a sows ear” was about to unfold. Advantage to the land owner for hiring a contractor who realized this discovery dramatically altered the entire project to his huge benefit.
The first step was to cut the dam and drain about 8 feet of water from the lake so that work could be done all along the lake shore. A drain pipe was installed so that the water level can be kept low during construction. The drain pipe will be re-engineered for use as a siphon overflow pipe when construction is complete and the lake is allowed to re-fill to its new, higher level. For the most part we are excavating for depth so a large amount of spoils dirt is generated. When you are spending money to move dirt and you have spoils dirt to deal with the challenge is to figure out a good use for the spoils dirt so that it adds value to the property. In this case the existing dam had steep sides and a narrow top. This type of dam creates a dangerous situation and an accident waiting to happen in the world of ATV’s and kids — and careless adults too for that matter. Using the spoils dirt to lengthen the back slope of the dam and to widen the top was a good bang for the buck. The dam was also raised 12” overall so that the lake level could be re-established 12” higher to improve the elevation change from the house to the lake water level.
A good contractor must have the ability to realistically picture the finished product and that picture must fit aesthetically.