By Katy Savage
Killington is removing beaver dams to stop stormwater runoff and protect infrastructure.
The town was granted a stream alteration permit from the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) on Nov. 23 to remove and downsize five beaver dams in a 6.1-mile stretch along the Ottauquechee River corridor.
“The town of Killington has a history of beaver problems within the Ottauquechee River corridor,” according to the permit application. “While the town has historically managed the beavers through periodic trapping, in recent years dam construction has resulted in overtopping of town culverts and bridges, flooding of roadways, and damage to private and public property.”
Dams are approximately 1 1/2 to 2 feet higher than normal water surface. Town Manager Chet Hagenbarh said seven culverts have backed up in recent storms, causing road damage.
“Over the last three years, it made a lake out of the place,” he said. “There was no place for stormwater to go and created big storm risks.”
The removal of dams has been controversial in the past. In September 2019, the town received an ANR compliance visit after a resident complained the town was removing beavers and dams illegally and without state permission.
John Keough, who filed the complaint in 2019, said he benefits from the beavers and kayaks on the river for his business Appalachian Trail Adventures, Inc. “Killington refuses to follow DEC guidelines and to install baffles,” Keough said in a 2019 letter to the editor published in the Mountain Times. “They just removed the dams, causing the beavers to cut down more trees and brush to rebuild the dam. Thus, causing bank erosion, poor water quality, poor fish habitat and destruction to private property.”
Both Hagenbarth and the ANR determined at that time that the town had a right to remove beaver dams to protect public and private infrastructure.
This time, Keough questions the financial ramifications of removing the dams.
“I keep saying the same thing, they keep removing the beaver dams and trapping them and they keep coming back,” he said. “You’re getting nowhere.”
The town hired Mosher Excavating to resume the dam removal process in the spring. Hagenbarth said he was using money from the highway budget. He wasn’t sure how much it would cost.
“There are certain rules that apply when you can remove them,” he said. “Some people think you’re not supposed to touch them. That’s not the case, you’re supposed to manage them.”
ANR visited Kililngton in November 2020 and December 2021. The permit allows the town to remove up to a foot of water per day.
“Due to ample flood storage in the wetlands along this corridor this reduction is not anticipated to result in undue adverse impact,” the permit said
Hagenbarth said the water level has been reduced by at least a foot so far. “It’s allowing nature to do what it’s going to do without dramatically impacting the town’s infrastructure,” Hagenbarth said.