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The ABC’s of BMP’s


Insights into Lake & Pond Management

Many homeowners and Property Managers are often faced with a question concerning a lake or pond on their property. For some, this may be their first experience in dealing with this ecosystem and the prospect of what to do can be intimidating. Looking at a plot of land in disarray, decisions of what to do and options for implementing them are often plentiful. Faced with a body of water in a similar state and suddenly options seem to ‘dry up’ (pardon the pun).


Suffolk BMP

The purpose of this article will attempt to define what problems your water body can have and some remedies for correcting them. The first question is “What is a BMP (your water body) and why must it be here? The answer is simple. Your BMP is a SWMF. …Say What!?!… The letters ‘BMP’ and ‘SWMP’ stand for Best Management Practice and this applies to the need for some intelligent Storm Water Management Facility planning. In a forest or a very large open tract of land, Mother Nature has plenty of options to re-direct or absorb the rain water. Once we pave the area for streets and consume land space for houses, the ability to naturally re-direct or absorb the rain water changes and now we have a problem.

Land Planners look at the natural terrain and decide on what management options best fit the site to deal with the sudden influx of rain water. They know they need a SWMF and now the decision is which type of BMP takes care of the problem. The SWMF come in a variety of forms; they can be ‘dry’ holding areas called Detention Ponds. These look like a large depression or a shallow hole in the ground and once rain fills the hole it quickly drains out to some channel downstream. A ‘wet’ holding area (your pond) is a retention Pond. It is designed to accept the rain water influx and through its overflow system allow a measured volume of water out. Looking at your land, there can also be gulley’s or ditches to help channel the water. Summing this all up, there can be a variety of different SWMF’s employed on your property. Now the big question is – “Why does it have to look so bad?”

It doesn’t. Just because this facility performs a function doesn’t mean it can’t be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, property that backs up to, or borders, the retention ponds are often sold for more money (and sold as waterfront property) than property that doesn’t. It may take years, but at some point Mother Natures’ penchant for filling in a body of water and turning it into a bog or marsh kicks in. This condition may be aesthetically unacceptable to your property or to the association as a whole. A knee-jerk reaction often heard to correcting this unsightly mess is an attempt to bring in truckloads of dirt and fill it in. As explained above, this will not address the problem. You are simply trading a short term solution for an aggravating long term problem.

The answer is to simply be pro-active in regards to the maintenance of this facility. It is reasonable to expect that without any constant maintenance of an ecosystem, whether it is your yard, the community park or the pond, Mother Nature has an arsenal of tools to employ that will revert the system back to a natural setting. Keep one thing in mind; Mother Nature has no time limit. Whether it takes a hundred years or a hundred days doesn’t matter; your concept of an acceptable aesthetic view of the lake ecosystem may not be the same as the tendencies of nature. It takes a concerted intervention on your part to keep the system from falling into decline.

We need to take a moment and lay out some of the more troubling issues that can befall your pond. In the water, there are lots of algae and aquatic vegetation issues that can really cause some heartburn for the property owner/manager. A lot of the pest plant species can be very overpowering and consume the pond wrecking any chances for species diversity and local natural plant selection. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on waterways to keep the invasive species under control. The operative phrase here is “under control” not eradicated. Most who read this are familiar with Lake Gaston. There has been a long, multi- year concerted effort by all parties concerned to get the invasive plant species Hydrilla under control. Many millions of dollars have been spent on this one plant species. Guess who’s winning…? It is Mother Nature in the win column while human kind comes in last. This does not mean that the folks around Lake Gaston are giving up. They just pick their battles, and savor their victories as they can.

Another misconception is that just because over the last several years one has had no issues with the pond that this will be the way it is forever. I have heard many a frustrating comment that ‘their pond is never a problem’. Suddenly their pond is a problem – a big problem. It could be algae, an aquatic vegetation, a shoreline vegetation like Cattails or Phragmites, an emergent vegetation like Alligator Weed or a combination of all the above. If ever the word “dynamic” applies to anything, it does apply to Mother Nature. If she has the power to make a tree root crack the foundation of a building, imagine what she can do to your little “Norman Rockwell” pond.

One big tip here is do not let anyone other than your lake and pond specialists place any aquatic vegetation into your pond. Regardless of where this plant came from, it can be a highly invasive species just looking for the right opportunity. Water Hyacinth is sold in many garden stores throughout our area and across the US. Water Hyacinth is the World’s number one pest aquatic invasive plant! A few years ago, someone had a small water garden in their backyard. Their backyard backed directly up to a BMP pond. The owner must have gotten tired of dealing with the water garden but did not want to kill off the Water Hyacinth plant – one small plant. The owner put it in the pond. Within a few short years and many thousands of dollars later, the plant was brought under control. Plants are called “Invasive” for a reason.

It is also interesting that in many garden stores, certain aquatic plants are sold to aquarium enthusiasts as ‘oxygen producing’ plants. The next time you go into this store, ask that same clerk you want to buy a ‘non-oxygen producing’ plant. Good luck in finding one. All plants photosynthesize. When sunlight abounds they produce oxygen. With night time or heavy cloud cover these same plants respire or consume oxygen. In general, the water body tends to stay at a balance where plant life is sustained. When conditions of nutrients, sunlight and temperature come together in one happy medium, issues can arise. It is easy to get algae blooms. Algae is the one ‘plant’ that has no long term control. If the pond has the right ingredients, you can have an algae bloom once every 30 to 45 days. With the right chemical application aquatic vegetation may be controlled for a year or two. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it is not there.
When there is an abundance of vegetation in the pond and there is no aeration going on, the pond may be a candidate for an oxygen collapse due to the aging requirements of dying plant mass. Even though not one drop of chemical was put into this pond, there can be a major fish kill. When a plant dies of its own natural causes; and if enough of them die together they respire and therefore consume the available oxygen in the water. The fish suffer and one thing you may notice if you are standing on the edge of this particular pond, is seeing fish come to the surface sucking or ‘piping’ for oxygen. Just be glad you are not ‘Charlie the Tuna’ at this moment.

Another catastrophic event can occur even without the issue of aquatic vegetation. A fish kill can occur when atmospheric and storm weather related events come together and cause the pond to “turn” or “flip”. Without getting into the details, as a rule – cold water sits on the bottom and warm water sits on top. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water does. In our shallow (4 -8 feet depth) ponds the fish know where the oxygen rich zones are. They will be down towards the bottom. When the pond flips, it disorients the fish and those living in the high oxygen zone are now living in a low oxygen zone. The result is a major fish kill and again not one drop of chemical.

A quick note on chemicals will be helpful here. All the chemicals used in the aquatics field are all tested and approved by the EPA. When a chemical is applied to a target plant, and the target takes up most of the pond, the phenomena of what happens to an aging plant population can now happen here. Too many plants die at one time causing the respiration of available oxygen and the result is a major fish kill. However, even though chemicals were added, the fish did not die from chemical poisoning. They died from lack of oxygen. I suppose it would be safe to make an obvious statement here – “lack of oxygen kills….”

As one who has read this, you can see that there is a lot to keep in mind when taking care of a wet or dry pond. There are so many issues I haven’t even begun to discuss that involve the proper maintenance of a SWMF. With a little luck, I can let my two fingers heal from all this typing and submit some more information. I would be honored to hear from anyone who has questions or concerns about their BMP. Until next time…..

Steve Weekly an Aquatic Biologist at

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tnx for info!!…

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