Relocate beavers to solve dam issue

NANAIMO – Columnist finds silver lining in beaver trapping and Colliery dams issues.

When word came the Colliery dams were to be demolished it wasn’t a big leap to guess what public, well, some of the public’s, sentiment might be.

In this age of cynical citizenry the movement to save the dams at any cost just seems like a knee-jerk response to distrust of government at any level.

With everything from trillion dollar bailouts of far flung banks and corporations to local school closures and all manner of issues in between, perceived lack of government accountability to its citizens has generated its share of public push-back from some quarters.

So when it came to tearing dams out of a favoured city park and losing the lakes, well the fight was on. No government was telling save-the-dammers it was demolishing those dams – even if it meant returning an industrial site created a century ago as a coal washing facility into some semblance of its pre-industrial natural state – earthquake, flood risks and logic be, er, dammed.

Such a stink was raised the dams were spared the wrecking ball, for now.

But backing down the bulldozers opened the floodgates to all manner of disgruntlement, especially over development.

No sooner had activists got the dams back on solid footings and flipped the municipal and provincial governments the proverbial bird when they swivelled their sights back on Linley Valley where in October a population of beavers – on private property not slated for development – might have run afoul of a lethal traps laid for them if a bunch of trespassing hikers hadn’t stumbled upon them first, springing a new uproar – this time over trapping within city limits.

City council chewed over the issue and, given local beaver sentiment, proposed a bylaw banning body-gripping traps within the city in favour of unspecified non-lethal varmint and varmint-caused flood control methods.

Coun. George Anderson, displaying common sense over pro-beaver bias, suggested leaping to a bylaw before studying its practicality was just a knee-jerk reaction to public concern, not to mention trapping regulations are governed by the province.

Ben York, a conservation officer who’s probably been hoping I wouldn’t drag him into this column, mentioned live traps are woefully ineffective (I think he’s just not using the right bait) and when you do catch beaver, they have to be relocated.

Beaver are territorial, meaning newcomers end up scrapping with indignant beaver who were there first.

Assuming successful beaver baiting, I bet Harewood residents would soon hear the sound of conservation groups plopping fat, healthy, live-trapped beaver into Colliery Dam Park waters that just happen to be woefully short on Mother Nature’s little engineers.

Believe me when I say I have not researched this thoroughly, but when the province said Nanaimo had to mitigate risk of dam collapse, I don’t recall anything mentioned on how to go about it. Beaver could potentially employ skills they come by naturally and busily gnaw down trees and shove rocks around to shore up those questionable dams.

With earthquake risk a prime concern, the province might offer grant money for creatively using B.C. timber to promote wood frame construction, which stands up to earthquakes.

The best idea, though, might be to tear those dams out and let beaver create and enhanced wetland and form a truly natural setting that could attract all sorts of wildlife for people to enjoy and school kids to learn about – like Bowen Park’s Millstone River side channel project on steroids – which was probably similar to what was happening there before those dams were built in the first place.