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Residents ask the question: 'Where'd the water go?'

The answer is less conspiracy theory than you might think


TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - What used to be a sizable duck pond at Summercrest Park in south Beaverton is now a muddy flat that features just a trickle of water from South Johnson Creek.Perhaps you’ve seen it. And if you have, perhaps you have the same question so many others have posed — “Where’d the water go?”

At some parks and wetlands in the Beaverton area, including Summercrest Park and the Center Street Wetlands, water levels have dropped dramatically in recent months for reasons not related to our current spate of warm weather.

Summercrest Park — the portion east of Southwest 165th Avenue and north of Southwest Lori Way — has long been the site of a sizable pond and home to the many ducks that frequent it. The pond, previously some 100 yards wide and 75 yards across, is fed by South Johnson Creek as it flows eastward through south Beaverton.

But right now, as it has been for the past few months, the area that used to be covered by water is mostly dried up, a melange of muddy flats, spiky grasses, newly revealed tree roots and just a trickle of water.

The same sort of disappearing water act has taken place at the Center Street Wetlands, located near Arts & Communication Magnet Academy north of Center Street and west of Highway 217. What once was an extensive pond bisected by a walking path — a marshy area bordered by long grasses, cattails and other native plants — and fed by Messenger Creek on its short sojourn northward off Hall Creek, is now decidedly drier.

So, “Where’d the water go?”

Are these instances harbingers of a severe drought that will hit this summer? Are they related, perhaps, to a change in water policy that has drawn away the scant water these small creeks carry? Has the water gone away due to hydraulic fracking in our neighborhoods?

To begin with, let’s answer the above questions — no, no and no.

We, as residents of the Beaverton area, probably should have figured this out ourselves.

This change in water policy, according to folks at Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, is one enacted by our beaver overlords.

“According to our Natural Resources Department, those are beaver ponds (at Summercrest Park), not managed visitor amenities that have a consistent look,” said Bob Wayt, THPRD’s Director of Communications & Outreach. “Water levels will fluctuate depending on where the beavers are working. In this case, the beavers moved into other areas of the park before or after heavy stream flows this winter destroyed the dam they had built.”

The answer is basically the same for Center Street Wetlands near ACMA, Wayt said.

“Movement of beavers dictates water levels in that area as well. Welcome to Beaverton,” he said.

As to the muddy areas at Summercrest Park, there is little chance that they’ll turn into big-tie mosquito breeding grounds as some have suggested.

Wayt shares that the mudflats left behind were seeded with a wetland grass mix in mid-February, and those areas are expected to slowly green up this spring.TIMES PHOTO: MILES VANCE - The Center Street Wetlands near Arts & Comunication Magnet Academy arent nearly as wet as they used to be, after winter storms knocked down nearby beaver dams and the Beavers moved on to other locations.