Glendale Creek beavers alive and well

Image of Working with Beaver, a publication about the importance of working with beavers for better habitat

After recent rain and snow events here in the Northwest, once again there are articles bouncing around about beavers.

This time news is good here on Whidbey, no dead beavers, no road blowouts, things appear to be working well. Though the county did step in to start pumping operations as the water level rose at the site of last spring’s problems.

An article about this; County mans the pumps as water backs up behind failed culvert on Glendale Creek appeared in the South Whidbey Record Jan 8, 2011.

There it was found by my friends at Worth A Dam in Martinez, California, who are way ahead of us here in Island County, in helping residents understand the benefit of beavers in the watershed. Here on Whidbey, many people still don’t have a clue and write things like: “Until the beaver problem is solved …” in the comment stream. One can only make an educated guess as to what that writer considers a solution.

To help us find something a bit more humane, Heidi Perryman of Worth A Dam sent me a copy of Working with Beaver for Better Habitat Naturally a beautiful publication put out by the Grand Canyon Trust. This 20 page booklet includes helpful hints for working and living with beavers. I’m sending it on to the  Island County Public Works Department and to the local organizations that work on issues touching on these important animals. Here’s hoping it helps them find not a solution, but a system.

Like maybe start talking about the gorilla in the room – that all owners of developed property up slope from the beaver pond, and throughout the Glendale Creek Watershed (and in fact, in all our watersheds) need to deal with stormwater runoff on their own land rather than let it roll on down the hill to Glendale.

4 comments

  1. What a nice post! I’m so glad you were able to connect with useful resources. Maybe you should join us for the “state of the beaver conference” in oregon in February. It’s only a stone’s throw away!

    1. Yeah, and where did I get that useful resource? – From YOU m’ dear. Thanks so much for keeping me in the loop about Martinez and for sending that great pub from Grand Canyon Trust. I’d love to come to the beaver conference, (she says, knowing full well the spam comment stream will go wild) And maybe other folks want to as well. Here’s the data:
      The State of the Beaver 2011 Conference
      February 2nd,3rd and 4th, 2011
      Seven Feathers Convention Center and Resort
      Canyonville, Oregon

      More information at http://www.surcp.org/beavers/conference.html

  2. Nancy,

    Thanks for your interest in the Glendale Watershed. I will put a link to the Article “working with Beaver for a Better Habitat Naturally” on our website http://www.friendsofglendale.org

    It is very frustrating for all of us when the media or government characterizes the issues occurring in our watershed as being the result of beavers in the system, our issues are way more complex. The folks in the community that rely on these sources for their information find themselves being underserved by the misinformation and hence we see comments by the most vocal reactionary folks with things like “Until the beaver problem is solved…”. I would direct your readers to our website http://www.friendsofglendale.org to listen to podcast from the series “Story of a Stream” that was sponsored by Island County and Whidbey Watersheds. This series of Town Hall meetings brought together landowners, government and watershed experts to help inform our understanding of the dynamics that are at work in this stream corridor and greater drainage.

    I think you will find for yourself that the “gorilla in the room” has been about the activities of man since the start of the 20th century. The early logging, road building and farming activities reshaped the natural flows and channelized the stream corridor. The issues that Friends of Glendale has been trying to address through Public and Government awareness is undersized and failing culverts that are fish passage barriers, concerns with regard to hillside erosion, and habitat issues.

    Only through public education with factual information will the landowners of the watershed “solve” the problems that currently exist and prevent creating new issues. The constant simplistic references to beaver activity being the source of the problems by the media and uninformed community is both not factual and not helpful for landowners attempting to find a balance where man can coexist with salmon, waterfowl, turtles, and yes, beavers. Your reference to storm water runoff is a valid consideration for new development in any watershed, but the primary contributors to flows in the Glendale Watershed are year round spring feed flows and seepage from peat deposits on undeveloped land in the upper watershed. The upper watershed has relatively large areas of undeveloped land that catch and regulate the underground flows of water to the marsh complex.

    Surface flows have increased over the years and beavers play an important role to keep more water on the land (especially on an island), and slow surface flows as these move through the watershed from the 300+ foot elevation of the marsh to sea level. Unlike other watersheds on Whidbey where landowners have been frustrated by land loss impacted by beavers activity, a large number of landowners in the Glendale Watershed understand that they are a keystone species that create habit for many other species. The activities of beavers in this watershed are mostly confined to a steep ravine that extends for close to a two mile stretch through private property and are not a bother to anyone. A beaver dam failure in any singular dam would be hardly noticeable by anyone along the lower stream corridor, and would be repaired quickly by a beaver. A major problem that has needed to be solved have been several culverts in the stream channel. Several are now gone, due to a series of catastrophic events in 1997 and 2009. The current actions by the upper watershed community and now the county was to avert another catastrophic event from occurring downstream from the potential threat of a road collapsing. The culvert under this road is well past its life expectancy and regardless of how it became plugged had the real potential to blowout should it unplug suddenly and a rush of water flow through it again as occurred in 2009.

    Problems with beavers and culverts are certainly to be expected and could account for the blockage in this culvert, but there is a lot of vegetative debris that collects in front of this culvert naturally. A collapse of a section in the rusted metal culvert could also be a contributor to its constriction, or a tree root growing inside it, or any combination of these. To make an uninformed assumption that it is just caused by a beaver only distracts the conversation. The landowners and county will inspect the existing culvert and either replace it or put a permanent plug in it. A replacement bypass culvert is already in the works that will protect the road in the future. Any help in steering the Community conversation to a more informed understanding of the problems would be welcome and feel free to direct them to our website http://www.friendsofglendale.org for additional information.

    Thanks
    Craig Williams

    1. Craig, thanks for your interesting and informative comment. You’re right, nothing is ever as simple as we’d all like to think. I attended the Glendale series and wrote about it. Those were some of the best public meetings I’ve ever attended. FOG, Whidbey Watershed Stewards and Island County taught us a lot about the many forces at play in Glendale.

      Thanks also for the reminder about your organization’s web site. I’ve added it to my list of links so that even those readers who don’t see this post and your comment can always get to your site from here.

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