What do a tugboat, barge, pile driver, twenty-five ton crane and alligator have in common? These are all of the things Kenny Floyd and his crew encountered when building a pond in Mandeville, Louisiana. Floyd is owner of Aquatic Construction in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The original design was to have three waterfalls that flowed down a riverbank about seventeen feet high back into a river. The homeowner had recently purchased the house and had a deck and gazebo canter-levered over the river. The main waterfall was to be positioned in between the rear of the house and the deck. A six by eight pond was designed to hold perch and green trout that the homeowner and friends would catch from oxygenated water in which the waterfall would create. The customer was sold on the idea that he could not only keep his catch alive for his viewing pleasure, but also have fresh fish at will. Seafood is a way of life for folks in Southeast Louisiana. A fish fry could break out at any time.
During the design process, the homeowner had mentioned that the water level fluctuated throughout the year. The question was raised, “Was there a bulkhead underneath the deck at the shore line”? We certainly did not want our project to find itself at the bottom of the river when the tide rose up and down. He assured me that, in fact, a bulkhead was beneath the deck. Our design was approved, contract signed and the work began. Two of the three waterfalls were completed when the time came to remove some of the deck boards in order to install the liner for the main waterfall.
It became apparent that the homeowner had been mistaken about the bulkhead being at the shoreline. Luckily, for us, we took the time to write a clean contract, spelling out the duties for which we were responsible. The only access to the shoreline would have to be by water. Our only option was to have a tugboat and a barge with a pile driver brought in for this project. The homeowner accepted responsibility and contacted a company who accepted the job.
Pilings had to be set into the riverbank in order to create a bulkhead. At the shoreline, a 3x4x60´ trench was dug and bags of quikrete were stacked and rebar drove through them to lock it altogether. Luckily, the river was very low during this time of the year. The design called for 3,000-4,000 pound boulders. This endeavor would require a very large crane that could lift a 4,000 lb. boulder 70 feet over the homeowner’s house.
What was even more challenging was the fact that Floyd could not see the crane operator in order to give him hand signals. The situation was compounded by the fact that the crane operator could not hear Floyd over the roar of the crane’s engine, and Floyd could not see the crane operator from where he was standing. Floyd used his cell phone to communicate to a “spotter” who in turn sent hand signals to the crane operator. For him this project brought back childhood memories of playing with Tonka trucks in a sand box. This time he realizes that it is not play. It is the real thing with real trucks and real cranes, and real skilled laborers working together to fulfill Floyd’s vision.
Dealing with the Stress of the Job
As one can imagine with a job this big and tedious, there was a certain amount of stress involved. “I kept praying we wouldn’t drop a rock on top of the homeowner’s house and create a new “skylight” that the customer did not order,” says Floyd. He and his crew found a unique way to deal with the stress. They made friends with a six-foot alligator who was living in the river they were building on. He went by the name “Rufus,” and he was eager to accept Vienna sausage fed to him from a stick with a fork attached at the end. “This was a great diversion from the stress of the job,” says Floyd, “and everyone could not wait for lunch time.”
The Finished Product
When it was all said and done, the customer had an exquisite water feature with multiple waterfalls cascading seventeen feet back into the Tchefuncte River. Floyd and his crew were proud of the work they had done. “It was quite an accomplishment and worth all the extra effort,” says Floyd. The customer was ecstatic and amazed at how Floyd and his crew were willing to go to any lengths to fulfill his vision.
In spite of all of the obstacles Floyd and his crew encountered with this project, he admits is was one the most fulfilling jobs he’s done since he opened his business 15 years ago. His childhood dreams became a reality.
About the Author
Floyd can be reached at (504) 733-3474 or www.aquaticconstruction.com. His office is located at 5501 Jefferson Highway, Suite 100, Jefferson, Louisiana, 70123.