Before the European settlement here in the united states, beavers and their dams could be easily spotted throughout North America. With the European settlement came agriculture which meant most of the fertile land was wet meadows home to the beaver. Needless to say, beaver hats, pelts and fur became very popular and the settlers had access to these fertile lands. With practically eradicating the beaver we have changed our watersheds to allow stream erosion and scouring.

Beaver dams have major benefits for both the environment and watershed. Their dams reduce erosion and scouring, increase pollutant removal, increase connectivity to floodplain and wetland hydrology. More importantly, these dams increase ground water recharge elevating the water table and storage capacity within the soil. This reduces the volume of water coming downstream and decreases peak flows which reduces flooding downstream. At the same time, it allows the water to travel through the soil and ground allowing for proper cooling of this migrating subsurface water. Water temperature is important for the quality of the watershed. Cooler water in streams has higher dissolved oxygen which supports more diverse aquatic life. Modern stormwater management is utilizing or mimicking this natural process through a method called “Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance”. Developments that have employed this method have been able to handle, convey and treat to the 100 year storm event without incorporating the typical stormwater ponds.

Beaver Dam - North River Rd. Howland Twp.

A few beaver dams have appeared in Howland Township and one is easily viewable from North River Road. In fact, the township has received numerous complaints and calls on this particular dam. Howland Township owns the surrounding land to this beaver dam and it is a nature preserve. Eventually some of the trees located within the river edge will die off but it will be replaced with wet beaver meadows called “Vegas”. The best part, we may have a section of the township that will resemble pre settlement landscape that is also improving our water quality and reducing erosion and flooding downstream. Due to development and urban sprawl some beaver dams may be an issue to homeowners due to their proximity to a stream. In those cases, a beaver dam will need to be addressed but otherwise let them go because you may live downstream.

Brian Prunty

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