Flooding, 7 Dead Beavers, Spark Local Action in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Two years after the town’s Open Space Commission voted to allow beaver activity to continue unhindered on the Ames property, local officals plan to install three beaver management devices at the Whippoorwill Road and Buttonball Road culverts.

“We do have a plan to address beaver activity with our mandate, and we will work with abutting property owners who are adversely affected by flooding originating on open space land,” said Gregory Futoma, a member of the Open Space Commission.

This summer, during an aerial survey of the Ames property to assess the rising water levels that prevented a typical property boundary line survey, “an individual broke nearby beaver dams, leading to a substantial draining of existing water levels,” according to Futoma.

“Following that vandalism, the commission received complaints from neighbors regarding expanses of mud left in the wake of the dam destruction and concerns that mosquitoes would breed on the drained pond areas,” he explained. 

According to Lee Detwiler, a former resident of Old Lyme who was visiting her local friend Dave Berggren at the time, “the dam was blown up and seven dead beavers were lined up on the side of the road.” 

“Someone came and asked Dave if he did it because of his issues with beavers on Black Hall Pond, but it wasn’t him,” Detwiler said.

Although the commission has been more than willing to allow beavers to alter the landscape on town property, and has invested in educational programming, as well as the construction of observation areas and cameras to watch the beaver activity on the property, the commission’s policy is to encourage action in the case of flooding that threatens critical infrastructure or private property. 

According to Futoma, the commission has decided to take the opportunity to prevent further flooding of the surrounding areas, and in particular of the road near I-95, from continued beaver activity. 

“The Open Space Commission and I went to the Ames Property and the other preserve to determine if a beaver deceiver would be possible,” said Tim Griswold, first selectman of Old Lyme.

An additional problem, according to Griswold, is that a nearby culvert, that is frequently blocked and contributes to flooding, is on state property. 

“It would be helpful if they addressed that,” Griswold said. “I am working on finding the right person at DOT.” 

The three beaver deceivers, which will cost the town about $2,500 according to Griswold, will do nothing to address the continued flooding concerns of residents, like Berggren, near Black Hall Pond and the Jericho Preserve owned by the Old Lyme Land Trust. 

“Near Black Hall Pond the water level is pretty shallow so I don’t know that the beaver deceiver would work there,” Griswold said. “The pipe has to be under the water.” 

For Berggren, the fact that a beaver deceiver is not an option is another blow in a multi-year battle with the beavers to save his slowly sinking home.

This past fall, State Representative Devin Carney helped Berggren connect with the land trust and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to address the problem. 

According to Carney, the Land Trust, DEEP and Berggren worked together to engage a trapper to temporarily solve the problem. The land trust also installed metal fencing to protect trees from beavers.

“DEEPs recommendation to me has usually been trapping,” Carney said. “They have never provided a solid long-term solution.” 

Detwiler and Berggren continue to ask Griswold and the Town of Old Lyme to intervene, but Griswold said there is really nothing else that can be done.

“If there is no dam blocking things anymore and they already trapped, then I can’t account for why the water would be high,” he said.

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