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Orrington sues landowners over beaver dam failure that damaged roadway

The remains of a beaver dam near Swetts Pond Road in Orrington. The dam broke in March, causing flooding along the road. Buy Photo

This was the worst beaver news I ever reported on, and will remain the cautionary tale for the ages. The unfortunate land owner wanted to keep his beavers, and the dam washed out causing massive road damage a decade ago. The city asked the landowner to eliminate the beavers, but the land owner refused and hired someone to install a flow device. (Last year David Wilkins posted on the beaver management forum that Skip had been saddled with the job). But hard Maine winters had rusted out the filter, the landowner didn’t notice,  and the beavers had plugged the pipe again causing the pond to get bigger and bigger. This apparently escalated until last year there was another washout.

Can you guess what happens next? Now the city is suing for damages because ‘they told the landowner to get rid of those beavers and he didn’t comply”.

The town also is claiming the Pelletiers agreed to fix the problem after the 2001 flooding and filed an additional claim on Dec. 13.

“The additional count alleges that the Pelletier defendants agreed to the installation, maintenance and monitoring of certain equipment designed to reduce or eliminate the hazard of a subsequent breach,” the motion to amend complaint states.

A device called a “beaver deceiver,” which resembles a culvert and is designed to control the water level, was installed after the flooding a decade ago, but over the years the beavers filled the device with sticks and it eventually failed, the town manager has said.

“We watched the deceiver start to fail and watched the water start to get higher,” Pelletier told selectmen shortly after the breach last year.

Ugh. Things don’t look good for our heroes. But if I was their attorney I’d demand to see records of all the phone calls or emails the city sent to the landowner saying the pond was getting bigger. And if I were Mike or Skip I’d be drafting a ‘flow device installation‘ informed consent statement right about that I had every future landowner sign. It would say in big red letters  “I have been informed that flow devices require yearly inspection to assure successful operation. Extreme weather conditions may make more frequent inspection necessary.” There would be a little space for their initials and signature. And I would keep it on file for just this sort of occasion. Sigh.

Did I mention I hate this story? And hate, hate, hate the chilling effect it will have on the installation of flow devices for years to come? For once I’m glad that more folks don’t read this website. Nothing to see here, move along.

No word yet on when all those lawsuits will come for the devastated fish populations caused by too few beaver dams. You think I exaggerate?