Restraining order sought for beavers

October 8, 2008 8:56:10 PM PDT
A Contra Costa County Superior Court judge today denied a temporary restraining order sought by beaver advocates aiming to stop the city of Martinez from repairing a river bank that is home to a beaver family.

The group, "Worth a Dam," had asked for the restraining order to prevent the city from beginning construction on the bank of Alhambra Creek until there has been a hearing on the matter, according to Senior Assistant City Attorney Veronica Nebb.

The city had planned to begin preparations Thursday for installing sheet metal along an eroded section of the bank from Escobar Street to Marina Vista.

The city's resident beaver family, however, which now boasts two adults, two yearlings and four kits, has built its lodge up against the creek bank as well.

Judge Barbara Zuniga said in the ruling that she considered the community's support of the beavers when making her decision but that "the record before the court indicates there was substantial evidence before the city establishing there has been significant chance along the east bank of the Alhambra Creek in the area of the beaver habitat requiring immediate abatement."

The Martinez City Council passed an emergency resolution authorizing the work Oct. 1. According to Dave Scola, the city's public works director, the city needs to begin work before Oct. 15, the official start of the rainy season.

"We're talking about a large crane driving 25 feet of steel into a creek bottom," Linda Meza, a spokeswoman for Worth a Dam, said.

The work will be done during the day when the beavers are sleeping, but Meza fears that the vibrations will startle the creatures, causing them to come out of their lodge where they could be injured.

Meza said that unless the city bars them from the creek, the group will purchase a thermal imaging radar in order to make sure the beavers aren't injured or killed during the work.

The city did not explore alternative ways to strengthen the creek bank, nor did city officials look at how the current solution would impact wildlife downstream from the construction area, Meza said.

According to the city, the emergency resolution came after the city received letters regarding a possible lawsuit from nearby property owners, who claimed that the beavers had damaged the creek bank. The property owners had reportedly hired an engineer, who found burrows throughout the creek bank and significant erosion, according to Scola.

The city then hired its own engineer, who confirmed that erosion had occurred near the beaver dam and the bank was filled with burrows.


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