- Associated Press - Saturday, June 28, 2014

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) - Donna Rasmussen has never built a lake before.

But she says she needs to complete this project for her late husband.

Rasmussen is the owner of the Sadona Hills development near Le Mars.

In between the development’s two hills is the planned site of a fishing lake that she expects to be at least 2 acres.

When Rasmussen’s husband purchased the land, he planned to dig the lake for neighborhood residents’ and his enjoyment.

“He loved to fish,” she told the Le Mars Daily Sentinel (http://bit.ly/T3qCAv). “So he wanted to fish out his back door.”

Rasmussen said her husband was never able to complete the project.

“And so once he died, I just thought ‘I need to do this. I need to finish this for him,’” she said.

Many of the development’s 17 overlooking lots are already occupied, so Rasmussen is eager to get the work completed.

She said digging a lake would have been a challenge, but by chance she met self-employed engineer Mark Ranschau.

Ranschau has experience building lakes; he constructed one for his family in his backyard.

Ranschau said construction is second nature to him, and his training has been on-the-job experience.

“I’ve run heavy equipment since I was knee-high to a grasshopper,” he said.

Ranschau said he is the type of person who will do something when he decides he wants to.

He wanted to build his house, so he did.

“Failure is not an option, that’s my motto,” Ranschau said. “Failure is not an option. It’ll happen - they’ll have a beautiful lake.”

He notes there are three important things to consider when building one.

“Location, location, location,” he said. “You need ground that is going to hold water. You need a water source. Everything has to do with location.”

Ranschau said the site has neither of those things.

But that can be overcome.

He will first dig a giant hole between the two Sadona hills.

The lake will be about 25 to 30 feet deep at its deepest point, Ranschau said.

A project of this size will require large equipment.

“I’m talking a big excavator and a payloader,” he said.

It depends on the type of soil.

Ranschau will then install a special watertight liner.

“It’s a PVC liner you use on roofs of big buildings,” he said. “The seams get welded with a vinyl welder.”

The liner comes in about 20-foot-by-100-foot rolls, so Ranschau will have to cut and weld it in sections and transport them to the lakebed.

After those sections are also welded together, Ranschau will apply a layer of dirt a few feet thick on top of it.

Although PVC liner does not tear easily, it still must be protected against things such as burrowing snapping turtles.

Nature will also contribute to the sealing of the lake.

Silt will collect at the bottom.

Rasmussen also plans to stock the lake with fish.

Probably the best thing to seal anything is fish waste, Ranschau said.

Then it will be a waiting game for water to collect, he said.

Water will slowly flow and collect in the lakebed.

The process could take 60 days to a year, Ranschau noted.

For his part, Ranschau hopes the project takes about three months to complete, digging and sealing around the clock.

“I’ll run until I can’t run anymore, and go sleep for a while, and go back there,” he said.

Even when the lake is full, it will still take several years for a fish-friendly ecosystem to form.

“You need to start getting organisms in there: tadpoles, algae,” Ranschau said - things that small fish feed on, and those fish are consumed by larger fish.

Digging the lake deep enough is crucial to provide enough oxygen for fish to breathe during the winter after ice has sealed the surface, he said.

“If you have a shallow pond, you can get winter kill and actually kill off all the fish,” Ranschau said.

After the lake is complete, Rasmussen envisions paddle boats and canoes gliding across its surface.

And there will certainly be fishing.

___

Information from: Daily Sentinel, http://www.lemarssentinel.com

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