Fryer Creek is an engineered flood control channel owned by Sonoma Water. Sonoma Water has taken extensive effort to restore the riparian trees along many of its urban channels. The recent use of Fryer Creek by beavers, who eat willow and cottonwood trees, is an indication of the improved habitat conditions along the creek. Thanks to the beaver dam, what is usually a dried up creek bed for most of the year is now a haven for aquatic animals and birds.

However, when the beaver moved into the East Fork of the creek within the Sonoma city limits, there was concern about increased flooding of the adjacent trail that could potentially block passage for trail users, and importantly, emergency vehicles. This is when the OAEC WATER Institute got involved to help facilitate a solution. OAEC has been monitoring the beaver dam since last year while consulting with Sonoma Water on options to allow beaver to remain in the creek while reducing the risk of flooding.

photo by Brock Dolman/OAEC

With the help of Swift Water Design, a pond leveler device was installed on April 27th, 2020.  (For more information on how a pond-leveler device works, visit Swift Water Design’s website.)  The team worked diligently to protect the resident beaver while installing this device which will now reduce flooding on Sonoma Water’s access road. It took a full day to carefully lower the pond level and beaver activity was detected that very night. They decided to only drop the water level no more that 12” to let the beavers adjust and allow the overall system find its new equilibrium. The team will return later to evaluate if this was minimally sufficient to gain access to the road bed again.

photo by Brock Dolman/OAEC

OAEC’s WATER Institute set out a ‘physical distancing’ safe table to freely offer our educational beaver booklets and returned home almost empty having given out many copies. Kate and Brock (in his Buster Beaver costume!) had many important and clarifying conversations with the nearby neighbors and people who use the trail frequently.

photo by Brock Dolman/OAEC

A Green Heron appeared during the install, perhaps knowing that maintaining this beaver habitat grows more fish and frogs which equals more Green Heron food!

photo by Brock Dolman/OAEC

Thank you to Sonoma Water for supporting this win-win project striving to balance supporting the beavers whilst reducing flooding on the trail and maintaining critical access to key floodway and emergency management infrastructure. OAEC WATER Institute is grateful for the opportunity to work with Sonoma Water on this successful non-lethal management solution and plans to stay involved with this and other projects to help the agency co-exist with beaver.

For more information about beaver stewardship, download our Beaver In California booklet.

Read more in an article in the Sonoma Index Tribune