On January 11, 2023

Letter about river permit, beaver dams was inaccurate

Dear Editor,

In the Dec. 28 Mountain Times, a letter writer made many false claims and assertions. I am referring to the letter about Killington’s river permit. The writer is uninformed and not qualified to make these comments regardless of how much time they have spent paddling the river. I have lived on this segment of the Ottaqueeche since 2001 and am also intimate with it.

First of all, there is no plan to eradicate the entire beaver population – period. This is so ridiculous it would be laughable if it were not so disgusting to propose. If this were true I would be at the forefront of preventing it and it would not happen.  A sensational thing to claim to be sure, maybe something that will cause a commotion, but patently false. Also, the beaver living between Route 4 and Route 100 on River Road is nowhere near the entire population of beavers in the town.

Technically, trapping is allowed year round everywhere in the state when necessary. Great effort has been invested and to do this work in season to better coordinate with the reproductive cycles and dormant period of the mammals chiefly to prevent the orphaning of young. This, too, is in accordance with the U.S. and Vt Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s strongest recommendations and is the moral and ethical thing to do. 

Tactics and methods were employed to prevent the taking of otters at a single person’s request. The harvest of smaller younger beavers was also avoided to focus on the older population that is so much more effective and efficient at work. I did this at no cost to the town and at a great expense of personal time.

There is no plan to mechanically remove any dams other than through natural management. Other than the break at the Valley Park there are no plans to my knowledge to move heavy equipment into the swamp. Simply having a permit does not constitute plans and action. The break at Valley Park was made with full accordance of state and federal agencies having made the recommendations themselves. The break was made in planned and coordinated stages. The water level is being monitored and recorded during the process. The purpose of the lowering of the water there is to prevent the erosion of the road bed of River Road. The road was not designed and built to be up against standing water. Without doing anything, the road bed would have softened and dropped away. The unexpected cost of repair, rebuilding, or replacement would be an immense burden to the taxpayers of this town, and say nothing of disruption and inconvenience.

Another issue facing the town is standing water in drainage culverts that cross under the road. If they are full of water, the non moving water will freeze in winter and expand, breaking the metal tube under the road. This will cause heaves in winter, collapse into dips in the spring, and cause costly unbudgeted repairs and road closings. The suggestion of replacing the newly built bridge at Valley Park with a wider one is simply ridiculous.

Unknown to the writer, there has been damage to private homes along River Road. Septic systems and acres of lawn had recently gone under water or ceased providing service. Had things remained the way they were, the last two storms and temporary flooding would have severely damaged the properties involved. It may have made one home uninhabitable or require near weekly septic tank pumping until spring due the number of people living in the house.

Lastly, although the beaver baffle looks like a great solution, it isn’t a viable solution in every case, including at Valley Park due to the flow rate. It is not a viable solution due to the flow rate at most points along River Road. It sounds great, it looks great on paper, however in practice its application is selective. Years of deployments verify this with hard data. It was our own state biologists and wetlands experts that prevented the installation of a baffle at Valley Park due to knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, I don’t think many people realize that the baffle isn’t set up and forget about its installation. The intake must be raised annually or more frequently for cleaning and maintenance. Who is going to do that and how?

While we all appreciate the concern for the environment, false assertions and outright untruths are not helpful to the public discourse. Time spent paddling on the water is no substitute for formal education and experience with civil engineering. Good intentions do not substitute for facts. An apology is due to the residents of the town of Killington, Vt. Fish and Wildlife, and most importantly, me.

Matthew Meservey,


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