We went down to Roundrock last weekend for a day trip. We had two goals for the day, one of which was to attempt again to open the drain valve in the dam. The man who built the dam had told me that it likely was not rusted shut but rather just sticky from lack of use over the years. Thus I was determined to keep trying; maybe it was merely my pathetic upper body strength that was the problem.
The angle is bad for applying any kind of force to the handle. I was alternately standing and kneeling in the gravel below the barrel, leaning in toward it and then trying to grasp the handle (to release the latch) and simultaneously push it with the awesome power of my wrists alone. So my plan this time was to use the shovel handle as a lever. I would release the latch and then push on the long, oak handle of the shovel wedged against it to get the horizontal force I needed but couldn’t apply on my own.
I worked my plan, there in the full sun and 4,000 percent humidity with flies and other insects buzzing around my face, determination and Libby being my only allies.
My plan didn’t work.
I had wedged the blade of the shovel into the gravel below the handle and had Libby pull on it as I released the latch. The blade just pushed the gravel out of the way, never grabbing enuf earth to hold it in place.
Somewhere in my fevered and frustrated mind I thought that maybe if I shoved the top of the handle into the gravel in the barrel I might get more purchase and thus a better lever. And so we tried that.
And it worked.
The drain handle moved a half inch or so, and with that came a burbling ooze of stinky, muddy water from the front of the barrel, right where my foot was. You can see the result above.
Long ago, the end of the drain pipe had extended six feet beyond the barrel. But when I’d had the dam worked on five or six years ago, I asked that the drain barrel be moved farther out (since it was being buried by the slow erosion/settling of the dam). I guess that took up the six feet of extension because the end of the pipe now is merely the outside of the barrel itself. I was uncertain where the exit was since the the accumulation of gravel and dirt over the years had buried it. You can see how some of that muddy water had backwashed into the barrel.
With this little success in hand, Libby and I tried for a little more. We wedged the shovel handle into the gravel inside the barrel and repeated our combined effort. And the valve opened further, resulting in the torrent you see below:
You can see some of the valve mechanism inside the barrel here. The handle is opened nearly all the way, the wall of the misshapen barrel blocking it any further. The white object at the top is the actual drain pipe, and that comes from all the way under the dam and out about twenty feet into the bed of the lake (where is enters a similar barrel that is drilled full of holes to act as a screen so all of the fish don’t come pouring out of the lake when the valve is opened). The muddy water that first emerged from the pipe (in the top photo) shows the silt that had accumulated around the barrel in the years of disuse.
The whole idea of opening the valve was to bleed off some of the water in the lake so that it could absorb better the next big rain and possibly not pour over the dam. And that was our intent for the day. We would leave the valve open during our visit and see what water we could drain off. Then we would close it before we drove back to faraway suburbia.
Instead, however, we decided to close the valve then. I wanted to make sure I could actually do so, given how much trouble we had opening it. We reversed our efforts and “easily” had the valve closed. So we knew we could do it at the end of the day too.
We opened the valve a second time, greeted the torrent of now clear water, left it open, then went about our day at Roundrock.
At the end of the day, when we had returned to close the valve, I could not see any noticeable difference in the level of the lake, but a few hours of draining of a full-pool two-acre lake through a six-inch pipe would not make much difference. Had we left it open overnight, I might have been able to see the difference.
But we had worked our plan, and it was a success. And in the meantime, the leakage under the dam will continue to bleed off the water. Nor are there any big storms forecasted soon. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the repair work on the dam to get done, and poor Pablo can rest more easily.