Controversy continues over Martinez beavers

April 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
For some they're charming, for others they're disconcerting. Martinez officials are talking about how to deal with the beavers that have taken up residence in a flood-prone city creek. A huge crowd showed up in Martinez on Wednesday night to discuss what's next for the Alhambra Creek beavers.

So many people wanted to speak about this issue, that the meeting ran late into the night.

The Martinez City Council moved to the larger County Supervisors' Chamber to accommodate the big crowd. Most came to let council members know they want the beavers to stay.

Since they moved in 18 months ago, the nocturnal critters have been the star attraction in this East Bay city which has also brought out civic pride among the people who live there.

"I think the city also needs to be answering the question, do they want to be known as the beaver town? Or do they want to go back to being known as the refinery town?" asked Guy Jett, a Martinez resident.

However, keeping the beavers in place carries some risks. There are concerns that their dams could lead to flooding. One popular option discussed Wednesday is to build a flood wall, which could cost nearly $200,000 dollars.

Heidi Perryman, on the Martinez Beaver Subcommittee, said groups have already said they'll help pay.

"These are big boards. These are places that can help us with organizing grants, help us with funding, help us with organization. The Martinez School District has already pledged funding," said Perryman.

Beaver proponents say the animals have brought in so many tourists and students on field trips, that the extra money generated from sales tax will offset costs.

Albert Turnbaugh, however, doesn't buy that argument. He, too, is on the Martinez Beaver Subcommittee and he told the council the beavers should be relocated.

"It's kind of like a family who buys their kids a rabbit for Easter. After Easter's over with two weeks later, three weeks later, guess what happens? That bunny rabbit gets ignored. And quite frankly, I think that the attention that the beavers get is going to dissipate significantly as time goes on," said Turnbaugh.

An Indian reservation has offered to take the beavers, so relocating them is very much an option.

No decision was made Wednesday. The council will take a formal vote at a later date.