LOGAN, Utah (AP) - Beavers play a crucial role in Utah’s watershed, but at one Logan wetland their dams have caused water to back up and flood an area near roads and a Wal-Mart.
It’s gotten bad enough that crews have torn down some dams to keep the area dry, KSL-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1PtRF1R).
But researchers from Utah State University came up with a better idea: A system called a pond leveler, which is designed to siphon off water and keep it from overrunning the banks, similar to an overflow drain on a bathtub.
The device ensures the beaver pond stays within its boundaries without having to resort to lethal traps or removing dams, said Dan Miller, chairman of the Bear River Watershed Council.
“Killing beaver just didn’t seem like the right way to go,” he said. “There was a better solution, and this is definitely it.”
Beaver dams are critical to the watershed because they store water in the springtime and release it in the summer, filtering sediment out of the water as it drains, researchers say.
That benefits downstream water users, including humans.
“They help with the water quality by capturing a lot of sediment and other materials that we would have to clean up otherwise,” said Nick Bouwes, an adjunct assistant professor at USU’s Watershed Sciences Department.
Beaver dams, ponds and other structures also add complexity to an ecosystem, slowing the flow of water and sediment downstream. They help fish and other creatures who take advantage of pockets of slow water to rest, feed and hide.
Wal-Mart took steps to protect the wetland when it moved in a few years ago, but the threat of flooding at nearby roads has prompted workers to regularly tear down beaver dams.
But it hasn’t been a permanent fix because the industrious little creatures simply rebuild them, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Delia Garcia.
The company welcomed the new system, which consists of a long tube with one end submerged in the beaver pond and the other positioned below the dam so the water can drain. “It maintains the height of the pond and prevents the beavers from building up the pond and causing flooding,” Bouwes said.
Miller lauded the company for embracing the idea in Logan, about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.
“Right from the start, they were right on board and they helped the process up through corporate (headquarters). Everybody’s on board,” Miller said.
Information from: KSL-TV, http://www.ksl.com/
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