After two and a half years of work, Lazenby expects the first irrigation system to be operable this spring.

“The first year, we came in and took out all of the big trees,” he says. “We came in and opened it up, got the beavers out, and improved the drainage. We also sloped the ditches on it and put in our water bars.”

In the following spring, Lazenby planted a crop of wheat on the land. “This past May and June, we harvested a crop of wheat from the ground we had cleared. Then, we started the second phase of the project after the wheat was harvested, putting in the core and building the dam.

“We excavated and got as much soil as we needed for the core. We stockpiled as much of the topsoil as possible, since we don’t need it in the bottom of this body of water, and we’ve been able to sell some of it to landscape companies. We’ll also put it back out in fields in certain places where it’s needed.”

There’s still a considerable amount of field dirt left to be removed from the pond site, he says.

“Right now, we’re at about 15 million gallons of water, with about a 4.5- to 5-acre surface area. That should put us at about 30 to 40-acre feet of water. This pool of water should put out about a foot of water on 30 to 40 acres, which is really good for us.”

The premise of the entire project, says Lazenby, is to hopefully catch the winter water that’s going to the Gulf of Mexico or wherever it might wind up.

“We’re trying to retrieve it during these months when people are just feeding cows and waiting for spring to get here. We’ll have three pivots on this one farm – one that’ll do a full circle, one that’ll do a semi-circle, and one on the other side of the road that’ll do a semi-circle. We’ll do those in two stages, putting in one this winter, and then putting in another one next winter.

“The beauty of this project is that we were able to take some of the topsoil and fill in two bottoms, so now we’ve got one smooth bottom behind the dam. It made the land more workable for us. Rye is now planted in the bottom.”

He’ll put a pumping station in the creek and pump water out of the stream to help fill the pond during about three months of the year. What’s remaining to be filled will be fed by rain.

Lazenby says he has had to “wear a lot of hats” during the project, and that it hasn’t been without its challenges.

“We dug down to about 20 feet, and then my irrigation guy told me you couldn’t efficiently lift water but 10 to 12 feet. You can push water as far as you want, but you can only lift it a certain number of feet. We didn’t want any pumps or pipes on the dam for the aesthetics of it, so we decided to go to the center of the bottom of the pond and dug a canal. As this body of water starts to draw down, we have a floating pump.”

It’s well known, says Lazenby, that Alabama is under-irrigated. “But the only way I think we can effectively irrigate is with standing bodies of water. We can’t effectively dig wells.

We had some subsurface drip irrigation on our farm in the past, but it was difficult to manage. For us, to apply with a pivot is the most efficient way to water our crops.”

phollis@farmpress.com