Martinez approves money to save beavers

October 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the East Bay, what started as an effort to save a family of beavers a while back, is now also an attempt to protect a cottage industry. The beavers have become something of a tourist attraction.

Just a block away from the beaver lodge, struggling downtown businesses are surviving on beaver fever.

"My business has gone up 70 percent at night, before when beavers weren't here, it was like a ghost town," says Luigi Daberdako.

Daberdako sells stuffed beavers, beaver t-shirts, stuffed beavers wearing t-shirts, even bouncing beavers.

"I have customers coming in from all sides, coming from Martinez, from different states. From Germany I see people come, I swear," says Daberdako.

Still, the urban beavers have been busy boring holes under a concrete wall, eroding the earth, and increasing flood risk. The property owner is threatening the City of Martinez with a lawsuit.

"The largest burrow that he described was about two to three feet in diameter that he was able to measure and about 11 feet into the creek bed," said Philip Gregory, the city contract engineer.

A report to the Martinez City Council calls for up to half-a-million dollars to shore up the banks of Alhambra Creek. Large sheets of steel pile would be driven into the bank, but construction will likely displace the beavers.

"Keeping the beavers safe and as undisturbed as possible, during whatever process we do, is a core value of this community in general," said Tim Platt, a Martinez Resident.

"We can temporarily move the beavers to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, while the work is going on, so that they're not crushed or traumatized or whatever," said Igor Skaredoff, a Martinez resident.

"Disrupting this lodge, is not going to make these beavers move. These beavers are not going to leave because of the wall construction," said Julian Frazier, a Martinez resident.

The Department of Fish and Game is giving the city two weeks to decide exactly how it will proceed with this emergency plan. It's a delicate situation because if the beavers go, so could a blossoming commercial identity, built on the history of hometown hero and naturalist John Muir.

The city council did vote tonight to declare this an emergency situation and authorize the money to fix the problem.

The beavers have cost the city a lot of money in the past. Their dams have risked flooding businesses, and last year the city was prepared to terminate them. Now they've created even more problems, and the city will soon figure out exactly how to save the beavers.


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