Beginning during the second half of last year (2017), the water level began to rise in the lower beaver pond in the conservation area along Gully Road. The beaver dam is located across Gully Road from the Guppy Falls parking lot, and the beavers seem to have been busy expanding it in both height and width. By the beginning of this year (2018) the water level was higher than it had been since at least when the bog boardwalk was built, about 15 years ago. The boardwalk and associated bridge at the upstream (northern) end of pond were already in need of repair, and the high water required an extension at the end near the picnic table to avoid wet feet.
By chance, two Eagle Scout candidates from Scout Troop 61 in Skaneateles were looking for projects, and we put them to work designing and building a new section of boardwalk and nearly a complete new bridge. Although they coordinated their work, and had help from other Scouts, Bed Rudnick was the lead on the bridge construction and Haas Tehan was in charge of the boardwalk extension. They milled all of the lumber for the project and handled the transportation of the beams and planks. The project was complete by the end of June.
The high water had another consequence, and the boardwalk repairs made dealing with it a little easier. The beaver pond has gradually become quite infested with over an acre of non-native Phragmites (European reed). The entire area along that side of Gully Road is a state-designated wetland, so we are required to obtain a freshwater-wetland permit from the state in order to apply any kind of chemical treatment to the Phragmites, and that’s just for the stems that are not in the water. Any stems that are in the water are considered aquatic plants, and would require a second permit for any treatment to those plants. Our plan was to chemically treat the non-aquatic stems and to pull the aquatic stems. Before the beaver dam was reconstructed, almost all of the phrag stems were out of the water. Chemical treatment was the only effective option. But now, almost all of the phrag is in the water. Water depths where the phrag stands range from about 6 inches to 3 feet.
This will have the effect of reducing the spread toward deeper water, and it will also make pulling more effective. Breaking the stems off at or near the bottom of the water requires the plant to expend more energy to reach the surface for light and air. Eventually the plants can be starved/drowned by this method. We are hoping that the beaver dam stays intact at least until all the phrag can be pulled, hopefully much longer. For that reason, please do not trap beavers on the conservation area.
Care must be taken in not leaving pulled or naturally fallen phrag stems in or near the water. A floating stem can sprout a number of new stems, which can take root as it floats to shore downstream. For that reason, all of the phrag is being burned on a small log-island as soon as it dries out a bit. The pile looks like another beaver lodge, so the answer is no, we are not trying to burn the beavers out of house and home.