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Project helps protect beavers, reduce threat of flooding

LOGAN — A project in Logan may be a lifesaver for beavers, and it may help Wal-Mart get along better with its furry neighbors.

Workers have installed a system intended to reduce the threat of flooding caused by beaver dams.

"Killing beaver just didn't seem like the right way to go," said Dan Miller, chairman of the Bear River Watershed Council. "There was a better solution, and this is definitely it."

The new system regulates the level of a beaver pond, functioning more or less like the overflow drain on a bathtub. It prevents the beaver pond from rising too high and overfilling.

In this case, the so-called pond leveler is a long tube with one end submerged in the beaver pond and the lower end positioned below the dam for the proper level of drainage.

"It maintains the height of the pond and prevents the beavers from building up the pond and causing flooding," said Nick Bouwes, adjunct assistant professor in Utah State University's Watershed Sciences Department.

Bouwes helped install the system, calling it an alternative to other methods of controlling beavers, such as using lethal traps or tearing down their dams.

The beaver colony that has the most to gain from the new contraption lives in a wetland on Wal-Mart property. The company took steps to preserve the wetland when it acquired the property.

"Beaver are critical — critical — to the watershed," Miller said.

Beaver dams store water in the springtime and allow it to trickle downstream in the late summer, a process that benefits downstream water users, he said.

"They help with the water quality," Bouwes said, "by capturing a lot of sediment and other materials that we would have to clean up otherwise."

The worry at Wal-Mart has been the flooding of nearby roads. Wal-Mart spokeswoman Delia Garcia said the company has never requested lethal trapping at the Logan location, but doesn't dispute that government agencies might have done it.

Wal-Mart, though, has regularly torn down beaver dams to control flooding. Garcia admits it hasn't worked because the beavers keep coming back. So the company is welcoming the new initiative.

Miller praises the company for embracing the project.

"Right from the start, they were right on board," he said, "and they helped the process up through corporate (headquarters). Everybody's on board."

In a written statement, Wal-Mart said the project will address "recurring concerns regarding beaver activity" but will also preserve "a rich environment for the creek's natural inhabitants."

Miller describes it as a win-win project: good for Wal-Mart, good for water users, and good for beavers.