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Resilient beavers restore dam on Merestone Pond

Tigard may move dam upstream if it can get proper permits next summer
by: Jaime Valdez Beavers have begun to reconstruct a dam on Merestone Pond along 121st Avenue in Tigard. The city removed the dam earlier this year to keep debris out of a nearby culvert.

TIGARD - Two months after the city removed a longstanding beaver dam on Southwest 121st Avenue, Merestone Pond is on the rebound.

'The beavers are back in there doing their work,' said Brian Rager, assistant public works director for the city. 'We can confirm that there are beavers building a dam. It's not as big as it was, but they are in there working.'

In June the city removed a 20-year-old beaver dam from the pond, which city officials said had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

The dilapidated dam needed to be removed, Rager said, before the dam clogged the culvert and flooded 121st Avenue.

With the pond gone, dozens of upset neighbors - many of whom said they bought their homes because of the nearby pond - blamed the city for removing the dam unjustly and scaring away the beavers.

'It was like a rock in the pit of my stomach,' said Kerri Hanson, who lives along Merestone Pond. 'To have something so beautiful taken away overnight, it's traumatic.'

'It's wonderful'

The dam has long been a problem for the city, occasionally releasing debris and clogging culverts.

The city removed the dam for similar reasons in 2001.

'We've learned to take it in stride,' said Hanson, who has lived near the pond since 2000. 'We told our neighbors the beavers would be back. Sometimes it takes two weeks, sometimes it's two years but our experience is that they always return.'

Rager said that city noticed increased beaver activity in the area a few weeks ago after someone built a small rock wall near the site of the old dam.

'Beavers are attracted to the sound of trickling water,' Rager said. 'That small rock dam created that trickling sound and that's probably what drove the beavers to start rebuilding the dam.'

However the beavers were enticed to come back, Hanson said, she's glad they did.

'It's wonderful,' she said. 'It completely changes our property from a mudhole to this beautiful, serene, peaceful place.'

But with that return comes fear that the dam will be removed again, Hanson said.

City might move dam upstream

The beavers have returned to the same place they built the original dam, Rager said, directly in front of the 121st Avenue culvert.

'Where the beavers are building now is not the best location,' Rager said. 'It's still next to a culvert and next to a sewer manhole.'

If the dam were moved only a few yards upstream it would solve the city's problems, Rager said, but that would require state permits, which Rager said will take until next summer to acquire.

Rager said that the city is working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but that could mean removing the current dam and moving it upstream, though the city might move the dam materials upstream to make it easier for the beavers to rebuild.

The city came under fire in June for not warning nearby residents about the dam removal or the fate of Merestone Pond, but Rager said that the city is planning to get together with neighbors in the future.

'We want to let them know where we're at,' he said.

After the dam was first removed, Tigard City Councilor Nick Wilson said that the beavers would be back.

'I told people 'You'll be surprised how fast they come back,'' Wilson said.

Wilson, who lived near the Merestone Pond when it drained years ago, said that beavers come and go, but that Merestone Pond would refill in time.

'We don't live in a static world, especially when you're talking about nature,' Wilson said. 'Wildlife comes and goes and moves around; it's part of life. I hope the folks out there are happy to have it back.'

Back at Merestone Pond, Hanson said she is.

'Every single morning since the lake came back, I've said, 'I'm thankful it's there and I appreciate it,'' she said. 'This lake is our life.'