Clearwater council approved a recommendation from staff to remove an abandoned beaver dam on Russell Creek near Russell Lake in the district’s watershed behind the ski hill.
The decision was made during last Tuesday’s town council meeting.
The dam had been identified by consultants as having the potential for the catastrophic release of stored water. The item was in a report entitled “Watershed Risk Analysis and Forest Development Suitability Report for Russell, Hascheak and MacDougal Creeks” by M.J. Milne and Associates.
The recommendation from chief administrative officer Isabell Hadford noted that logging is being carried out in the watershed until the end of February. Making use of the equipment that would be in the area would result in savings.
She recommended that Longfellows Natural Resource Management Solutions Inc. (Wes Bieber) be contracted to oversee the removal of the beaver dam for a cost of $2,700.
Wells Gray Community Forest is doing the logging and has agreed to burn the debris removed from the dam, Hadford said.
Interior Health said no permit was required from it but asked that the district monitor for turbidity.
The district’s newly hired engineers said they had no history to judge the advisability of removing the dam. The district would have to balance the potential benefit of keeping it for more constant stream flow versus the hazard of a sudden release damaging the water system infrastructure downstream.
The engineers asked that photos be taken before and after the removal, in case there is a desire in the future to build a manmade dam at the same location.
The dam is about 30 to 40 m long and about 1.5 m high, said forest consultant Wes Bieber.
He described it as being full during spring freshet last year but empty by August.
Bieber noted that Weyerhaeuser at one time had a stream flow meter on the creek for several years. He suggested that data be compared to the stream flow after the dam is removed to see what effect it had.
It is not unusual for beavers to occupy and abandon dam sites periodically. The animals move in when there is an abundance of the deciduous trees they eat in the area, then leave several years later after all the nearby trees have been consumed.