While the Charles River Dam Advisory preps its official recommendation to the Select Board regarding the South Natick Dam, the town’s Conservation Commission earlier this month discussed what to do about a big beaver dam along the Town Forest off of Oak Street.
More specifically, the Commission voted to authorize the town’s Public Works Department to “punch a hole in the dam,” as Chair Matt Gardner put it during an Aug. 11 meeting.
The Commission’s tone toward the beavers has seemed to change since the spring. Then, a town-wide beaver discussion involving Natick’s Conservation Commission, Trails and Forest Stewardship Committee, and Open Space Advisory Committee ended with consensus to adapt to the critters rather than trap them (and no doubt have to deal with the persistent animals again before long).
Natick rerouted an oft-flooded trail to avoid the beaver dam’s impact. Flow devices used to address beaver issues in other parts of Natick’s complex and large watershed were deemed unlikely to work in the relatively shallow water along the Town Forest trail.
Though even at that time, town planner/conservation agent Claire Rundelli presciently stated: “I think it’s important to remember this doesn’t have to be a forever decision. If we do a summer of adaptation and it turns out horribly and the beavers can build another 3 foot of dam and all of a sudden we’re flooding Rte. 9, then we can always reevaluate at that point…”
Rundelli said during the Aug. 11 meeting that the town has been getting complaints about high water (yes, even during this drought) near homes of residents of Huntington Street near Pickerel Pond. Research finding unusual water flows in the area shows the impact that the dam has had, she said.
“What I’m proposing is that we breach the Town Forest beaver dam (A) to relieve the water levels as we get into fall and potentially a rainier season, but also just to sort of see what’s going to happen to the water levels up here…,” Rundelli said. The Commission agreed and voted in favor of doing so (the dam is separate from the lodge further away where the beavers live).
Gardner recommended that the commission talk at upcoming meetings about its beaver management strategy going forward. Referring to the beavers inevitably rebuilding any dams the town knocks down, Gardner said. “We just need to make a decision as a commission as to ‘Are we going to put up with that?'” This could include trapping and killing the beavers over the winter.
“This is clearly turning into an ongoing issue,” Gardner said. “We can play nice for a while…”
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