New Hampshire town seeks state approval to install more 'beaver deceivers'

Beavers in Hopkinton, N.H., have been flooding an old roadway for over a year. But the proposed solution needs state approval — that's how Bill 281: An Act Relative To Beaver Deceivers came about.

Jim O'Brien says 'beaver deceivers' help maintain water levels without harming wildlife

The New Hampshire town hopes installing long pipes called 'beaver deceivers' will help stop flooding caused by beaver dams without harming the wetland wildlife. (CBC)
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It won't be the first time the New Hampshire State Legislature has discussed problem beavers. But it may be the first time "beaver deceivers" have come up.

The town of Hopkinton, N.H., wants to install one the devices to put an end to months of flooding issues — but they need state approval to move ahead with the plan.

Jim O'Brien is the chair of the Hopkinton Select Board. As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with O'Brien about how the town is dealing with the beaver issue.

Here is part of their conversation.

Jim, I understand Hopkinton has a beaver problem.

Probably for about the last 18 months. The issue surrounds an old road. It's a road that has been discontinued. But the road is still used for walkers and bikers.

But over the years, beavers have taken to building a dam on top of the old road bed, which has caused, as beavers do, a lot of flooding and wetlands. It has made that road impassible.

The people who own property around had differing opinions on whether the beaver dam should stay, whether or not the flooded areas should remain, and what a long-term solution looked like here.

So it was hard to come to a consensus because people wanted to protect the beaver, protect the flooded area, and have the road open for use.

O' Brien says more beaver deceivers are needed after the animals quickly outsmarted the humans and moved downstream where they built another dam. (Alex Pajunas/Daily Astorian/Associated Press)

What have they begun to consider? What is the method, this solution, that they are looking at?

At one time we had a proposal to go and trap the beavers and remove them and maybe relocate them somewhere else. But none of the property owners would allow us to do trapping on their property.

And so, what we chose to do was to take down the dam by hand and then install a pipe, otherwise known as a "beaver deceiver" which, is really a long pipe that goes, in this case, it was underneath the road bed.

It sort of acts like a culvert. It allows for the water to flow between the flooded area and downstream in order to keep the water level where you would like it to be.

It allows the beavers to continue what beavers do, which is to live in wetlands and to construct beaver dams. But it allows for the water to not get trapped so far behind to cause damaging flooding.

OK, I know a lot of people living in rural communities — their ears have perked up when they hear there might be something called a beaver deceiver. So, I mean, is it just like a regular culvert? Why wouldn't the beavers just block the beaver deceiver? What deceives them about this?

It is a longer culvert and so it stretches beyond, just underneath the beaver dam. It's a longer pipe and then it also has mesh or cages on the end so that the beavers can try to plug it, but there's still enough running water to allow for the water to go through the pipe.

They do need some maintenance. But it has been shown to be effective, I think over 90 per cent of the places they've been installed. You are able to keep your wildlife and you are able to manage the water levels and manage the flooded areas.

Do these beaver deceivers disrupt their habitat?

They allow the water to flow. So some of the wetland habitat in some of the flooded area would be lessened because the water level would be maintained.

But it does allow the community to kind of have its cake and eat it too. It allows roads like the one here in Hopkinton to be passable and still allow for the wildlife and beavers to co-exist. 

The funny part about the story in Hopkinton is we've installed the pipe and the water levels maintained themselves. We can chock a win up to the beavers who outsmarted the humans in this case because what they did is they moved downstream and they built a new beaver dam. Which, in turn, re-flooded our road and sort of overtook our beaver deceiver pipe.

Which leads to our next problem that we've been having with how to get these beaver deceivers more widely used in our state. 

Which leads us to Bill 281, which is?

We've asked our local lawmakers to introduce this bill because there wasn't clarity from our state environmental regulatory department of whether or not we need to go through a lengthy wetlands permitting process in order to install this pipe.

So we sought clarity through this bill which would say that land owners and municipalities like ours could install these beaver deceivers to manage our wetlands and flooding issues without having to go through what sometimes would be a very long, expensive and time-consuming regulatory process to do this. 

And so New Hampshire is considering what is called "an act relative to beaver deceivers." How quickly do you think this will get resolved?

You know, everybody gets a chuckle over that.

It will move through the process and hopefully will be put into law by June.

So by June, New Hampshire will be deceiving beavers?

All over the state we will have the right to deceiver beavers — that's correct.

Written by Tracy Fuller and John McGill. Interview produced by Tracy Fuller​. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.  

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