Old Lyme Land Trust Chair, Lawyer, Meet with Berggren on Beaver Flooding

Berggren property outlined in green and Jericho Preserve outlined blue (Credit: Google Map Data, 2020).


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OLD LYME — After nearly two years of asking neighbors to help locate and remove a beaver dam flooding his home and property on Black Hall Pond, Dave Berggren met today with Old Lyme Land Trust Board Chair Mike Kiernan and trust lawyer Thor Holt.

Contrary to numerous statements by trapper Robert Comtois, former Flood and Erosion Board chair Todd Machnik and others, that there is a beaver dam on the Land Trust’s Jericho Preserve that is responsible for the flooding, Holt said the first step will be determining if that dam exists.

“We don’t know how many dams there are. We don’t know if there are dams and we don’t know that if there are dams, that they are the problem,” Holt said. “We are investigating it.”

When that investigation will begin, how long that investigation will last, and what the outcome will mean for Berggren’s deteriorating property, remains unclear.

“It’s weather dependent and it’s going to take some time,” Holt said. “At the present time I don’t think anyone is prepared to say what the cause is of the damage or what the solution might be.”

According to Berggren, Bonnano warned him that a resolution to the matter could take years. Bonnano had been asked to attend the meeting on behalf of Berggren, but has not been retained by a client in the matter. Holt later confirmed the substance of the comments in a statement to CT Examiner after the meeting with Holt, Bonnano, Berggren and members of the land trust.

In statements to CT Examiner, both Berggren and family spokesperson Lee Detwiler expressed frustration that, at 82-years-old, Berggren does not have years to wait for a resolution.

The town role

In a telephone call on Tuesday, First Selectman Tim Griswold, said that he had hiked out into the Jericho Preserve with members of the Old Lyme Land Trust and identified a dam about 100 yards within the land trust’s Jericho property, and four-tenths of a mile upstream.

Griswold said that Ann Galliher, the secretary of the Old Lyme Land Trust, and her husband, are hiking out daily to break up the dam that Griswold and the land trust found. 

“Since they’ve been maintaining a gap in the dam, the water level in Black Hall Pond has dropped two feet,” Griswold said. “Ann and her husband seem very interested in the whole situation and are willing to continue breaking up the dam or possibly installing a beaver deceiver or two to manage the situation.” 

On January 30, Griswold, Kiernan and Galliher launched a drone from the end of Apple Tree Lane over Black Hall Pond to determine where exactly and how many other dams are obstructing Bucky Brook. Griswold said that he is still waiting for those photographs.

“If it turns out there is another dam, I would require them to remove or manage it if it was pretty clear that the obstruction was causing the backup,” Griswold said.

Both Kiernan and Ann Galliher were contacted for the story, but declined to comment. 

If the land trust does not continue removing the dam, Griswold said he is not sure there is anything else the town can do. 

According to the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the town has the authority to require the removal of the dam in question from Bucky Brook.

“Because the town has the authority they have the responsibility,” said Chuck Lee, Assistant Director of dam safety programs for Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “But, there is no penalty if they don’t do it.”

“Any town, city or borough may require any private person or any firm or corporation to remove from any waterway or tidal water within the jurisdiction of such town, city or borough any debris, wreckage or other similar material for which such private person or firm or corporation is responsible and which prevents or may tend to prevent the free discharge of flood waters,” according to CT Gen Stat § 7-146 (2012).

“The problem is it’s not simple. Removing a beaver dam is a challenge,” said George James, a member of the Conservation Commission and former board member of the Land Trust. “To destroy a beaver dam is a huge expense and sometimes dangerous. This is far from simple.”

Note: An earlier version of this story stated that, “According to Michael Bonnano, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Berggren, the process of reaching a settlement between Berggren and the land trust could take years.”

To clarify, Bonnano had been invited to the meeting on behalf of Berggren, but had not been retained by Berggren, or any other client, in the matter.

Bonnano’s comments, which have been confirmed by multiple sources in the room, were not made directly to Werth, who was reporting on the matter, but to Berggren.