Hopkinton Seeks Legislative Intervention In Year-Long Beaver Dam Saga

Jan 2, 2019

The beaver dam, pictured here in early stages, began flooding the unmaintained road in Hopkinton in 2015.
Credit Sara Persechino / Hopkinton Select Board

An ongoing struggle with a beaver dam in Hopkinton will land in the state legislature this session.

Hopkinton select board chair Jim O'Brien says the town has been trying for more than a year to stop a beaver dam from flooding a local back road.

"I think every member of my Board of Selectmen, other than me, has been on some sort of subcommittee or some sort of leadership role in having to work on the beaver issue,” he says.

Neighbors didn’t want them to trap and move the beaver, so they took the dam apart by hand.

All the work has been done on a volunteer basis, O’Brien says, because the road in question is a “class six road” – meaning, the town has decided not to maintain it and can’t spend any money on it.

After reducing the dam’s size, O’Brien says they installed a pipe to allow water to flow freely underneath.

It’s similar to a device called a beaver deceiver, which lets a beaver safely maintain its dam without blocking water flow. Deceivers have been effective elsewhere in the state.

But it wasn't clear if Hopkinton needed state permission to install one. A local resident worried they did, and alerted state officials, who weren’t sure how to proceed.

Now, Hopkinton state Rep. Mel Myler will bring a bill before the legislature to clarify the state’s beaver protection code.

It could make it easier for towns and residents to install beaver deceivers, in most cases without a wetlands permit.

As for Hopkinton’s favorite beaver family – O'Brien says they wised up while the bureaucratic confusion over the deceiver dragged on.

"So the beavers just moved their operations downstream and that flooded us once again,” he says.

The dam is now on private property, but it’s still affecting the road. O’Brien hopes another deceiver could still be a solution.