Pondering a Pond?

Pondering a Pond?

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Bender-Keigley, Janet

The desire to build a pond on your property might seem like the perfect way to provide wildlife habitat, create a native fishery, develop a ready source of water for fire suppression, improve the aesthetics and value of your property, irrigate or water stock, or establish a swimming and ice skating spot. However, a pond may not be the ideal way to realize long-term dreams for your property if you don't know what you're getting into. Alternatives such as wetland and stream restoration or seasonal ponds may prove better investments, require less water, and still be attractive.

The first step is to learn about the water on your property by contacting your local Conservation District or Water Quality District and talking to local experts about your ideas. If not properly designed, constructed, or maintained, ponds can cause serious problems for rivers, streams, and wetlands. Water pollution, invasive species, and lowered water levels are just a few issues posed by constructed ponds.

Second, research the laws associated with your project. Did you know that water in Montana belongs to the state? You may or may not be able to obtain legal rights to the water needed to fill a pond. Surface-water rights and groundwater rights are different. The Department of Natural Resources Conservation can answer your questions. Contact them at 406-444-6610 or dnrc.mt.gov/wrd/water_rts. Ask about the Water Rights in Montana
booklet.

Did you know that the stream flowing in your backyard may actually be an irrigation canal? Certain legal restrictions apply to what you may or may not do in or near streams and irrigation canals. A concise, easy-to-read “Stream Permitting Guide” is available at dnrc.mt.gov/permits/streampermitting/guide.asp.

Last, consider these questions before embarking on any water project:
Do you have options for a water source?
Do you have or can you obtain the water rights?
Can you obtain the proper permits?
Have you considered the costs of liability for your “attractive nuisance”?
Are you prepared for long-term maintenance obligations?
Have you determined the legalities of stocking the pond?
Are you certain that the pond will not alter the natural water supply to the area?

Landowners can learn more by requesting a copy of A Guidebook for Montana’s Ponds available from Montana Watercourse at 994-1910, or download a copy at mtwatercourse.org. Montana Watercourse fosters stewardship of Montana water resources through water-education materials. It is housed on the MSU campus and is part of the Water Center.

Always be aware of current laws regarding ponds. A new law requires private-pond owners with fish-stocking permits that are 10 years old or older to renew their permits every 10 years. The law, passed by the 2005 legislature, sets a $10 fee for permit applications and renewals. February 28 of each year is the renewal deadline. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks administers pond fish-stocking permits and mails permit-renewal notices to all affected pond owners. Permits that are not renewed will become inactive. Contact Nancy Podolinsky at 406-444-7319 or [email protected] if you have an unrenewed pond-stocking permit that was issued befoe January 1, 1998.
Janet Bender-Keigley is the program coordinator for Montana Watercourse. With a background in education and an interest in the natural world, Janet enjoys sharing water information with Montana citizens.



Get a little info before you end up drowning in your own pond project.

Talk to a Live Human
For information on Water Rights and Dam Safety Requirements, contact the local Department of Natural Resources and Conservation at 586-3136.

For information on fish toxicants registered in Montana and rules for their use, contact the Technical Services Bureau of the Montana Department of Agriculture at 406-444-5400.

For your non-commercial private fish pond license, contact FWP at 994-4042.

For stream bank/bed protection permits, contact the Montana Association of Conservation Districts at 406-443-5711 or macdnet.org/conservationdistrictdirectorycontact.htm.

For water-quality information, contact the Water Protection Bureau of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality at 406-444-4626 or deq.mt.gov/pcd/wpb/index.asp.

Read Up
Ranch Fish Ponds in Montana: Their Construction and Management, by C.J.D. Brown and N. Thoreson. The original pond-building resource.

The Montana Lake Book by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Explains basics like the water cycle and watershed, covers lake nutrients, discusses responsible building, and educates pond builders on safe, ethical pond maintenance. Also includes useful information on laws, resources, and state contacts. Available online at fwp.mt.gov/insidefwp/lakebook/lakebook.asp.

Trout Ponds for Recreation, by L.D. Marriage, A.E. Borell, and P.M. Scheffer (published by the US Dept. of Agriculture). Teaches rookies how to build, stock, and manage a pond.

Ponds: Planning, Design and Construction, by the Soil Conservation Service (published by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) Explains smart, ethical pond design.

-Kira Stoops

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