This weekend I was working on putting together my presentation for the Salmonid Restoration Conference in Santa Rosa and thought I’d try to find some photos of the big multi-million dollar creek fix done in 1999 that everyone said the beavers threatened. Considering the fact that the work is talked about all the time, and changed our creek-scape fairly dramatically, it’s surprising that there is not a single photo of it on the internet(s). You would think Martinez would be proud of this accomplishment?
While I was looking about I came across a website discussing some OTHER work done in our creek, which is often dramatically added to the price tag of how expensive the beavers were to Martinez. The work was done in 2008 but was posted by the engineering firm in 2012. Maybe they were waiting for the dust to settle or for everyone to forget what actually happened?
I certainly never will.
In 2008, litigation was brought against the City of Martinez for damage to private properties caused by beavers living in Alhambra Creek (owned by the City). Cal Engineering & Geology reviewed the site conditions and met with the City’s attorney regarding the merits of the claim.
The litigation put the City in a politically difficult position since the beavers were not a protected species but were greatly supported by the politically active environmental community group called, “Worth a Dam-Martinez Beavers.org”.
rIn the interest of striking a balance between nature, public interest, the City’s liability, and private property, CE&G suggested use of a sheet pile wall to both support the private properties and to act as a barrier against beaver dens extending below private properties.
Based upon conversations with a beaver expert retained by the City and the City Attorney, the sheet pile wall concept was approved.
You can understand at once why this got my full attention. Right off the bat I’m curious why this article is titled the Alhambra Creek beaver dam since even by their own definition this work had nothing to do with the dam. It had to do with the [completely fallacious] argument that they were tunneling out from their lodge like coal miners and undermining the property beside the creek. It’s surprising to see our name (or at least our name as it might appear on the internet) used. But the really interesting statement is the one in red. Exactly what beaver expert did the city confer with to hatch the sheetpile idea?
You understand. there is a sequence problem here. Obviously the city attorney isn’t routinely involved with creek maintenance. I’m sure she’s busy with abutments and ordinance challenge. Neither she nor any expert were part of the decision which was made in some secret back room, I’m sure. The city attorney got involved when we tried to challenge their willfully misguided decision in court and failed. The beaver expert was hired as a result of our outcry in attempt to mollify public opinion.
Credit where credit is due – the city council hatched that horrific idea all by themselves (actually I heard from several sources that one of the few members no longer on the council came up with the idea in conjunction with the disgruntled party). This member later had an ex parte conversation with someone on the subcommittee and that member later called me saying would be no big deal to open the lid of the lodge, gently tap some sheetpile through, and then close it back up. Like a can of beans.
That terrifying phone call followed a closed door meeting on a Thursday night. The following Friday the action was proposed, we hired an attorney, and paid a geomorphologist to walk and assess the creek on Saturday. The following week Worth A Dam went to court and our request for a temporary restraining order was denied. If the whole thing wasn’t burned into my memory, it would be helpful to look at the blow by blow available on this website. Next wednesday the entire proposal was approved and retained and I was invited to participate on a citizen oversight committee that would have zero capacity for oversight of any kind. I declined and left the meeting in tears.
Including the exemption from CEQA. Bids for the work open at 11 tomorrow. Sheet pile will be driven through the beavers lodge. Council responded to comments for citizen inclusion with an offer to set up an oversight committee including Worth A Dam, but then discussed it with the attorney and city engineer who advised that any oversight body could not make decisions, slow decisions or influence them in any way. I declined to participate under those conditions.
Supporters were in tears at the meeting’s end, including myself. Gary Bogue offers his condolences and wisdom.
Ahh Gary, we miss you. Sniff.
In other words, the city invited beaver lovers to sit on an oversight committee … that had no oversight. That kind of says what this is all about, doesn’t it?
The city now plans to charge ahead on their “emergency bank stabilization,” causing a MAJOR impact on the beavers’ environment and their home … and of course on the beavers themselves.
I guess we’re going to find out how tough those little guys are, whether we (or they) like it or not.
That was easily the darkest hour in beavertown, maybe of my life because I felt so personally responsible for failing to avert the decision that I believed would kill them. But Gary was right, we did find out how tough our beavers were. Pretty dam tough is the answer. Every beaver survived and adapted pretty well to the intrusion.
The whole thing introduced an element of freedom to how politely constrained I needed to be in dealing with the city. Up until then, I felt my hands were tied by always feeling obligated to assume they meant well. Now I understand better whose interests they really serve. After the shock and heartbreak wore off, the clarity was truly liberating. With the benefit of hindsight I can look at my remarks and Gary’s remarks and think they probably had something to do with this creative narrative:
Additionally, the beaver expert, who monitored construction at all times and had the authority to stop work, was satisfied with the project.
I’m so glad that our website was able to put together enough information so that Cal Engineering would know intimately how to lie about in their post. We tried not to leave anything out. I’m rankled that they are offering this whole dangerous charade as an example of their environmental engineering. Although to be fair, I’m not mad at CE, they were just getting paid. I’m mad at the liars and schemers who used the excuse of the beavers as a way to turn a legal award from an old oil spill into a personal flood protection barrier for one property owner.
But that’s all blood under the bridge, now.
Funny thing, it turned out the only thing really being undermined in this whole process was my faith in the city. But no amount of sheetpile will repair that.