Posted on August 8, 2014 by Tia Lalani

Dr. Glynnis Hood’s team is working with Beaver County to manage beaver impact.

“Pond levelling devices help man and beaver co-exist”
From Patricia Harcourt of the Viking Weekly Review, August 5 2014

Augustana summer research students clear out the culvert in preparation for the installation. Photo: @BeaverCountyAB

Augustana summer research students clear out the culvert in preparation for the installation. Photo: @BeaverCountyAB

A demonstration in the Beaverhills moraine area of the county’s west end highlighted a new way of thinking towards an old problem that pitted landowners against the county’s namesake, the beaver.

The pond leveller device installed July 29 in a beaver pond just north of the intersection of R.R. 200 and TWP. Rd. 515A is the brainchild of Dr. Glynnis Hood, a biologist at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus.

Beaver County has teamed up with Hood and her team of research students/installers to see the effects of levelling ponds out so that the beaver can still have its dam without creating problems for infrastructure and farmers.

Beavers can flood crop land, roads and otherwise damage infrastructure. In the case of this particular pond, the dam had plugged the culvert causing a rise in water levels.

Hood and her team first had to get into the pond and manually unblock the culvert, allowing the water level to drop to the bottom of the culvert. Once the culvert was clear of debris and the water levels lowered, the work of installing the levelling device began.

This is a simple device, using a pipe with one end kept under the water and protected against beaver attack by a wire mesh cage.

The other end goes into the culvert, allowing water to flow from the pond to the other side of the road, keeping the pond at a certain level. Grates were put in at both ends of the culvert, with a hole cut for the pipe to pass through into the culvert.

The pipe will remain draining water to keep levels down. As most of the piping is under water it doesn’t bother the beaver. One end of the pipe that is visible is held down and protected by the wire cage so the beavers can’t get at it.

Hood calls herself a “wetland plumber,” who just wants to create and maintain biodiversity in the ponds, which are vital to the ecosystem and water retention.

“This way you keep the wetland but you kind of control it,” she said. Once a device has been installed, “the ponds are definitely lower but it helps with the landscape.

“So that was kind of my inspiration,” she said, to preserve the biodiversity while preventing damage to infrastructure. Up to now, the only thing the county could do if a beaver dam was causing problems was to blow it up, and try to prevent the beaver from coming back.

“All this (type of) beaver management was doing was losing wetlands,” she said, adding that “you lose all kinds of wildlife.”

Members of the install team put the finishing touches on the pond levelling device. Photo: @BeaverCountyAB

Members of the install team put the finishing touches on the pond levelling device. Photo: @BeaverCountyAB

Beaver County has contributed $63,000 towards the program, said the county’s Division 1 Councillor Kevin Smook. “The project will last to the end of April 2015 under the current scope. This is all part of a study to see how residents perceive the issue.”

The county is prioritizing areas where there is water backup due to beaver populations, and much of it is happening in the wetlands in the county’s west end. Smook said this is also where the highest levels of population are in the county, which intersects with – and comes in conflict with – the needs of the beaver.

“The study is concentrating mainly in the west end, there’s more water and a higher density population,” he said. “It all ties into the Beaverhills Moraine.”

The pond levellers work with the problem, allowing water to move and maintain the wetlands, he said. “In the urban areas, the options are limited. This is a wonderful option.

“The pond levellers will remain in place, and require minimum maintenance.”

Research supervisor on Hood’s team, Nick Yarmey, agreed that the “levellers will improve the health of the wetlands,” by striking an equilibrium between wet and dry years.

Helping with the demonstration that day, among others, were county Agricultural Fieldman Aimee Boisee and Land Flood Control Officer Bernadette Sidoroff.

Division 2 Councillor Sieko Scott also attended, having taken in the tutorial put on by the students to prepare the laterials for the install. This was held the day before in the county transportation yard.

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