Beaver dams are first priority in limiting flooding

MAYVILLE – Beavers are public enemy No. 1 right now in Mayville.

After a meeting on Tuesday where the New York State Department of Transportation discussed recent flooding with representatives from the village of Mayville, the town of Chautauqua, the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, the Chautauqua County Department of Public Facilities and other stakeholders at the Carlson Community Center in Mayville, the DOT’s solution for the flooding issues remains: “reestablish the existing drainage.”

The solution would require landowners to apply for a permit to trap and eradicate beavers outside of trapping season, excavate the beaver dams currently in place and continually monitor the locations with beaver activity, utilizing preventive maintenance when necessary. If any village, town, county or state employees will be working on private land, easements will be required for the project.

Don Emhardt, town of Chautauqua supervisor, and Martin Bova Jr., mayor of Mayville, agreed to work together and contribute what they can to help the project.

“I don’t want this to be just a town or village problem,” Bova said, noting that landowners will have responsibilities in the process since the issue is mainly on privately-owned land. “I’m more than willing to help out, but I don’t want to own it.”

Dave Wilson, of the Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, said that as long as the individuals involved were serious about raising funds for an excavation project of the dams, for which he provided a rough estimate of $1,500-2,000, he would help them apply for a permit to eradicate the beavers.

The landowners affected by any excavation projects agreed to allow equipment onto their properties to break up the beaver dams.

“This issue is very important to us – we’re looking to get suggestions – every time we have a rain event, we’re getting a burden of water,” Bova said.

Bova explained that the excess water has been starting in the area of Morris and McKay roads, and since 1999, has been spilling into the Webb’s property, the Veterans of Foreign Wars property and onto Memorial Drive, eventually flooding Route 394. He said that aerial photos taken by the DOT in previous years showed issues with beaver activity damming up drainage, and that the Webbs paid a trapper to find and remove beavers.

“The bottom line is, we’re getting the water here,” Bova said, before he invited comments from others in attendance.

Lallman Rambali, DOT regional hydraulics engineer, presented the history of the DOT’s involvement in the flooding area.

According to Rambali, in 2003, the DOT investigated drainage in what is now the area of Memorial Drive, finding two outfalls depositing into the lake. At that time, one of the outfalls was abandoned by the DOT. Currently, the area has a pipe draining into the lake and drainage that runs to Mud Creek. During heavy rain events, the beaver dams are causing an excess of water to flood to Memorial Drive because the drainage is unable to handle the large amount of water.

“Because of the series of beaver dams, instead of going to Camp Merz, the water is going to Memorial Drive,” Rambali said.

In 2008, the village of Mayville cleared a beaver dam, and Rambali has been investigating the flooding problem since that time.

“Beavers rebuild the dams – some beaver dams still exist in this area,” Rambali said, noting that he visited the area a few weeks ago and photographed multiple dams.

Ben Webb, manager of Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant, explained that based upon a previous DOT recommendation, he had contacted the Department of Environmental Conservation and trapped beavers on his property.

“Beavers will always be attracted to the right environment,” Webb said. “We can attack the beavers all we want, but it won’t solve the problem.”

Dr. Wallace Johnson, owner of Mayville Dental Arts, felt that the DOT effort was “too little, too late,” and advocated for a dualistic approach of updating the drainage near Memorial Drive and excavating where the flooding problem originates. Johnson also said that with moving water running across Route 394 during heavy flooding, it is a public safety issue, specifically for a road constantly traveled by schoolbuses.

“For the last six years, I’ve been watching my buildings get destroyed and tenants leave,” Webb said. “Theory and practice are different – the only part of this environment that has changed is Route 394.”

Bova asked about possible solutions.

“The one 24-inch pipe that was retained between the (Living Art Gallery) and the mini-golf course – would there be a possibility of making that a box culvert?”

Rambali said that an additional culvert would not take care of the issue, as the water would still flood the area until it reached the culvert.

Johnson asked if it was possible to install additional drainage pipes to the area near Memorial Drive.

“The water will still be sheet-flowing even with drainage,” Rambali said. “There’s just too much water.”

DOT representatives felt that additional drainage was not necessary as long as the beaver issue was confronted.