Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Beaver defeaters and salmon

I own a 12 acre plot with a little building on it, that I use for seasonal grazing; it has a stream that runs through it, and last year I noticed that the parks department had installed a "beaver defeater" there.    The area is great beaver habitat, and they were making themselves at home by damming the stream and flooding the meadows upsteam of my property.

I enjoyed watching the beavers at work, because the area that they were flooding out was a failed wetland project.  The county/state/federal government had spent 2.3 million dollars to plant all sorts of trees and shrubs and basically walked away after that.  two years later and it's a sea of canary grass, which is an invasive species around here.  The grass shaded out and out-competed the millions of dollars worth of native stuff, and as far as habitat goes, it's not very good. 

 The ponds that the beavers create are good for the beavers, and actually provide more varied habitat for other critters, not the least of which is salmon fry.  there's actually a pretty good run of at least two species of salmon up this creek.   I much prefer the beavers industry to the 2.3 million dollars spent and wasted.  We've spent $486 million dollars on salmon projects with no results.  This is a little tiny bit of that wasted treasure.   Next time you see a levy or bond or proposed grant, think about this half a billion dollars. 

I'm not kidding about that number, by the way.  Check out the website for partners for Puget sound; it gives you a map to look at the cost of each project and a report card on how the recovery effort is doing.   Partners for Puget sound is a big supporter of salmon projects.  Why not?  There's plenty of loot for everyone, and if we don't get anything done, well, that's just fine!  Lets spend MORE!

For those who don't want to read; $486 million spent.  Of 22 tracked salmon runs, 1 is improving, 1 is declining and there is no change in the other 20.  For that amount of money, I'd call that a fail. 

The beaver defeater is the mesh disk that you can see centered in the photo above.  the beavers apparently can't figure out pipes, and they try to build a dam were the little footbridge is, but the water continues to flow down the pipe.  Unfortunately the pipe and mesh guard are pretty hard for salmon to go through, and when I looked at the stream last November, during the silver salmon (coho) run, there were a bunch of fish stacked up below this barrier.  So I cleared a path for the fish, and called the parks department, and this year they're trying something new. 

What this box does is maintain a deep water path through the pipe; instead of the water being an inch or two deep, which forced the salmon to have to work very hard to get through, this little box ladder keeps the pipe full, allowing the fish to swim up without too much struggle.  The current isn't a problem for the salmon; but the depth of the water was.  Kudos to the parks department for fixing the problem.  But I'd still like to see the beavers prevail here. 

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