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Posted on: May 2, 2017

Mill Creek to Implement Innovative Approach to Preserve Beaver Habitat While Reducing Flooding

A beaver dam across Penny Creek
The City of Mill Creek will install new tools on May 5 to help preserve beaver habitat while reducing flooding.

Beavers are to blame for many of the woes of travelers on the Mill Creek portion of 35th Avenue SE. Beaver dams, which appear very quickly, hold back the flow of water under the bridge at 144th Street SE as it curves into 30th Avenue SE. The wetlands at the mouth of Penny Creek then flood across 35th Avenue SE by Thomas Lake, which results in road closures.

In the past, the City has removed beaver dams as they appear. From spring through fall, this is almost a weekly occurrence.

Now, thanks to a Hydraulic Project Approval permit from the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the City will install two flexible levelers to allow the beavers to build a dam across Penny Creek at 144th Street SE to the north of the bridge in the City’s Highland Trails neighborhood. The flexible levelers will allow water to flow through the beaver dam and not disturb the dam.

“One of the goals of the City’s Surface Water Utility program is to rehabilitate stream and drainage corridors to benefit wildlife habitat,” said Marci Chew, Mill Creek surface water specialist. “This solution will enable us to prevent flooding while preserving the beaver habitat.”

Designed by beaver specialists, the flexible leveler is a system made from double-walled corrugated plastic pipe, which extends 20 feet from the wetland area and under the beaver dam. The pipe mouth is protected by cattle fencing, which prevents beavers from entering it or blocking it. The pipe is also anchored in place and staked every six feet to prevent movement. Water is then able to exit the wetlands without an impact to the beavers.

The City’s Surface Water Utility staff and Public Works staff are working with Beavers Northwest, a beaver conservation and education organization, to build and install the flexible levelers.

“Our crew will watch how they are built and designed, which will enable us to do this in the future without requiring a consultant,” said Chew. “There are several beaver dams along Penny Creek, and beavers continue to multiply. This will help us manage the problem without impacting the habitat.”
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