Glendale looks ahead, despite return of beaver

They’re back.

Another beaver is repairing the dam on upper Glendale Creek. It’s the same spot where the collapse of a portion of a beaver dam was blamed for triggering the April flood that forced Glendale residents from their homes and did more than $5 million in damage.

Dyanne Sheldon, a restoration ecologist who lives in the upper watershed near Cultus Bay Road and French Road, said she wasn’t surprised.

“We’ve had beavers in the system for hundreds of years,” she said.

Sheldon spoke at a meeting in Clinton this week for Glendale residents and others in the community to assess what happened after the disaster and what to do next.

More than 50 people came to Clinton Community Hall on Tuesday night for the first of a series of meetings being organized by Island County officials.

Frustrations lingered, and there was some finger pointing at the county, but most people were attempting to look ahead.

“It’s going to take a long time to see things back to a stable setting, back to like it was,” said Randy Brackett, assistant county engineer.

“We don’t have a crystal ball,” Brackett added. “But maybe two or three years from now you may be pleasantly surprised that it will be the stream it once was.”

The collapsed beaver dam upstream, plus a period of heavy rainfall, were blamed for the unexpected swelling of Glendale Creek on April 2. Residents of the upper area believe the beaver that was tending the dam had been killed earlier while crossing Cultus Bay Road.

The morning of April 3, rising water wiped out a 20-foot-deep section of Glendale Road about 100 feet wide, and the culvert under it, and sent a wall of water, mud and debris rushing a mile down the canyon into the Glendale beach community.

Eight homes, the Glendale Hotel and the old Ford Garage were damaged. Residents had been evacuated hours earlier, and there were no reported injuries.

Private property structural damage was estimated at more than $2.1 million, the bulk of it for the heavily damaged Glendale Hotel. There was an additional $70,000 in estimated personal property loss.

Brackett said the county incurred the loss of $2 million worth of roadway, and spent another $60,000 in assisting Glendale residents with the cleanup effort.

Some at the meeting said the county should have been monitoring the rise of the pond behind the dam, and should have breached it before the pond became so large.

It’s estimated that when the dam gave way, there was more than 40-acre-feet of water behind it, the equivalent of a 20-acre body of water two feet deep.

Brackett said the county was unaware of the size of the pond behind the dam, which had been built by beavers beginning in November, because the dam and the pond were on private property.

In any case, Brackett said, it has been determined in the past that a government entity that intentionally breaches a beaver dam is liable for the consequences.

Although Brackett said that Island County officials made no specific decision to leave the dam alone, Glendale resident John Crawford said, “Somebody made a judgement call not to breach that thing.”

Sheldon, who helped restore the lower portion of Glendale Creek after the New Year’s Eve flood of 1996, said the beaver dam alone isn’t at fault in the latest incident.

She said the water behind the breached dam escaped gradually, and by itself wouldn’t have caused the amount of damage downstream that occurred if the water hadn’t been trapped behind Glendale Road.

Critics of the county have said the culvert under Glendale Road near Holst Road should have been replaced after the 1996 flood, but Brackett said the culvert had handled that flood and all the stream flow since, until April’s disaster.

Brackett said officials are reviewing options for repairing the washed-out section of Glendale Road.

So far, those options include creating turnarounds on either side of the washout, installing a large-diameter oblong arch culvert under a repaired roadway or building a bridge across the divide.

A culvert and repaired roadway, or a bridge, would probably cost more than $1.3 million, Brackett said.

Some suggested keeping the gap in the road, which would provide the widest possible space for the creek to flow.

Meanwhile, the cost of recovery appears to be up to the county alone. No state or federal funds have been forthcoming, although the county plans to apply in September for a $200,000 grant for salmon restoration, Brackett said.

“The county is a victim, too,” he said. “We’re suffering. Money is very tight. It will come down to what we can afford.”

Besides issues with the culvert and the beaver dam, some in attendance were also critical of the county’s timing of the evacuation, which began about 2 a.m. on April 3.

“I knew it was going to go at 6 p.m.,” said resident Lorinda Kay, whose small house was one of the worst hit. “The evacuation should have happened earlier.”

“You guys dodged a bullet on this one,” agreed Crawford.

Kay, however, praised the county for its participation in the cleanup, which she called “amazing,” and her comments drew applause from others in the audience.

“There was no loss of life, and no serious injuries, which is a blessing,” Brackett said.

He said another meeting probably will be scheduled in July, with others to follow.

“We need to discuss this as a community, about how we live with nature,” Brackett said.

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