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Mill Creek tries new tactic to prevent beaver dams from flooding nearby roads

In an attempt to solve a perpetual flooding issue that causes traffic delays, the City of Mill Creek has commissioned Beavers Northwest to build a 'beaver deceiver.' The device has no formal name but its idea is to let beavers co-exist with humans and end the flooding issue. (Photo: KOMO News)

MILL CREEK, Wash. - Beavers in Penny Creek are in for a surprise.

In an attempt to solve a perpetual flooding issue that causes traffic delays, the City of Mill Creek has commissioned Beavers Northwest to build a "beaver deceiver." The system of pipes has no formal name but the idea is to let beavers co-exist with humans and end the flooding issue.

For years, a beaver dam under a bridge at 144th St SE has caused flooding in a wetland area, which then floods a portion of 35th Avenue SE.

City workers have had approval to hand-remove the dam to reduce the flooding of the wetland and the street.

“But, it's just a lot of work for our maintenance crew,” said Marci Chew, a surface water specialist for the City of Mill Creek.

Crews have been breaking up dams along Penny Creek on a near daily basis during the rainy season.

They city has a legal option of capturing and removing the beavers. During certain periods of the year, the city is authorized to euthanize the beavers if they are considered a nuisance, but Chew said that’s not a real option.

“We just try to live with the beavers here and adapt to them and let them live here peacefully,” said Chew.

On Friday, Chew oversaw the installation of a pond leveling system that could more aptly be called a, "beaver deceiver." The idea is to let beavers think they are building a dam, but there will always be a hole in it.

"It puts a hole through that dam so the beavers can still exist on this upper part,” said Mike Rustay of Beavers Northwest, a beaver conservation and education organization. The year-old non-profit organization has built similar devices throughout Washington State.

“They are still going to work on the dam, but it will keep water levels lower and hopefully off 35th Avenue," said Rustay.

Cattle fencing protects the opening of a 30-feet long stretch of flexible, plastic piping to let water pass through the beaver dam. The pipe is anchored and staked every six feet to prevent movement.

But, beavers are smart and Rustay knows that.

“There are ways it can be defeated and beavers have defeated it before,” said Rustay. “They've chewed through the pipe, they've filled up the hole with sticks, but it doesn't happen very often.”

The city plans on spending $6 million next year to raise 35th Avenue to stop the flooding issues. That should make both beaver and man happy.

In the meantime, the city will see how well its new beaver deceiver works before building others on Penny Creek.

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