Pond cleanup seeing progress near Deer Valley
September 22, 2009
Goldfish are attractive, but they’re also enemies to healthy ponds. A condominium community in lower Deer Valley learned that the hard way when someone introduced the pet fish in a 1.5-acre pond on the property some years ago. For a few years now, Elevated Property Management has been cleaning up the mess at Deer Lake Village on Queen Esther Drive.
Goldfish are a relative of Koi fish and can grow up to two feet long. They swim in orange schools that shimmer in the sunlight. They’re also hardy like carp and can survive in almost any conditions. They eat up all the nutrients needed by native fish and turn a pond murky and swampy. Mike Slater, regional aquatics director for the Utah Division of Wildlife, says they’re a perfect example of the dangers of introducing non-native species.
Bill Riley, owner of Elevated Property Management, along with homeowner association board members have been working together for the past two years to clean up the pond and reintroduce native species. Keith Clapier, owner of Park City Arborist, has been hired to create a landscape plan to rejuvenate the surrounding plant life.
The water flows into the larger lakes below Deer Valley and eventually into Poison Creek and the downstream reservoirs. Many people are focused on building green and landscaping green, but bodies of water also have a big impact on the environment and need to be managed properly, Riley said. He cited out how important pond renovation was to improvements in the Silver Springs area a few years ago.
So Riley and Clapier removed about 1,000 pounds of goldfish from the water some of which had grown to 10 inches, he said. Last year they introduced largemouth bass which will feed on any remaining intrusive fish and hopefully eat any newly introduced.
Now, native frogs, salamanders and insects are returning to the water. Clapier has designed the landscaping to complement the pond and make it as pristine as possible.
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A 20-year native of the U.S. Forest Service, Clapier is an expert on surveying wetlands and riparian (areas bordering wetlands) habitat. He said he loves this project because so much of the work he does now as an arborist is "upland."
"It’s not very often I get to design a landscape around water," he said.
He will be planting riparian-zone trees like cottonwood and birch as well as introducing native grasses and aquatic plants. About 80 percent of what he’s been planting is native, he explained.
Ideally, 100 percent of the shoreline will be covered in plants, he said. Trees placed in the right places will not obstruct condo views, but will still provide the water with cooling shade and over-hanging branches from which insects fall in, nourishing the fish and amphibians.
In addition to fish, another factor designers need to keep in mind to create healthy ponds is nitrogen removal. So much nitrogen and other fertilizers are used in landscaping that it leaks too many nutrients in the water and causes algae blooms. The decomposing green matter sucks oxygen from the water, making it difficult to support native flora and fauna. Ponds must be kept healthy for larger ecosystems, Clapier explained.
"Ponds filter out pollutants and fertilizer; they act like kidneys in a way. Aquatic plants in ponds and streams have dense, fibrous root systems that filter out sediment and contaminants," he said.
Riley added there are a few more years of work to go before his homeowners and those neighboring the lake will be completely satisfied, but improvement is definitely observable, he said. The bass are thriving and moose can be seen visiting the water.
"We hope to have another beautiful thing to look at," Riley added.
Slater with the Division of Wildlife Resources said species should never be moved from one body of water to another. They can spread disease and ruin an ecosystem. Even the introduction of native fish into contained ponds has to be approved by his office. Anyone interested in learning more about stocking or removing fish from a pond should contact his office at 801-491-5651. Information is also available at wildlife.utah.gov under fishing and licensing.