By Erin Smith
Beavers are wreaking havoc in the southern section of Bladen County. E. W. Bowen told the Bladen County Board of Commissioners that attempts by State officials to improve drainage concerns in East Arcadia are being thwarted by beavers.
First, before the business session began, the Bladen County Board of Commissioners conducted their swearing in ceremony for two members of the board and elected a new Chairman and Vice-Chairman during their regular monthly meeting on Monday night.
Commissioners Arthur Bullock and Charles Ray Peterson were administered their oaths of office by Bladen County Clerk of Superior Court Niki Dennis. Commissioner Bullock was joined by his family for the swearing in ceremony.
Once the oaths of office were administered, the board elected a Chairman and Vice-Chairman. The nominations for Chairman were Commissioner Peterson and Commissioner Michael Cogdell. The board voted 5 to 4 in favor of Peterson as Chairman
The nominations for Vice-Chairman were Commissioner David Gooden and Commissioner Ashley S. Trivette. The board voted 6 to 3 in favor of Commissioner Gooden as Vice-Chairman.
Following the swearing in ceremony, beavers and their lodges were a topic for the Bladen County Board of Commissioners meeting. E. W. Bowen addressed the board about drainage issues in the East Arcadia area of Bladen County.
Prior to Bowen speaking, Chairman Peterson read a list of “rules” for the comment period. He stated speakers would be limited to three minutes each and comments had to be directed to the entire Board of Commissioners not at individual members of the board. Chairman Peterson said that comments cannot address current or potential litigation.
Next, Bowen spoke about the drainage issues affecting East Arcadia and the southern end of Bladen County.
“What in the world do you plan to do about beavers in Bladen County? The lower need must be worse than the upper end of Bladen County,” said Bowen.
He explained that since Hurricane Florence, the issue has worsened. Bowen said state officials are attempting to open ditches up but once the water reaches a creek or the river, it cannot flow any further.
“When water goes to the creek, it can’t go anywhere because of the debris and trees and stuff,” said Bowen.
He said the problem dates back to at least 2008 and has been steadily getting worse. Bowen said the county is experiencing flooding and bridges washing away.
“Somewhere we are not doing what we are supposed to do. Our tax dollars are steadily growing,” said Bowen of the drainage problems.
Bladen County Manager Greg Martin said, “We know that there has been an ongoing problem with beavers for years, particularly in the lower part of the county. However, there is a proposed project that Dean Morris with the Soil and Water Conservation District is working on with regard to debris clean up and that type of thing to help the water flow more effectively.”
Morris told the board that currently, requests for bids have been sent out for several areas of the county for debris removal in streams and the East Arcadia area is one of them. He added in addition to clearing the streams of storm debris, the project will include the removal of beaver dams.
“Now beaver dams are something that if you don’t get the beavers out, the dam will be back in a few weeks,” said Morris.
He told the Commissioners that Bladen County participates in a federal program called the Beaver Management Assistance Program, or BMAP, at a cost of $4,000 per year. Morris said when a property owner contacts them about a beaver issue, there is a $25 fee charged to the landowner for each visit and a charge of $125 per beaver dam regardless of the size. He said the BMAP representative will give the landowner an estimate of how many visits it will take to resolve the problem.
Morris said the BMAP program will work with the landowners regarding a land management program to reduce the beaver population.
He also said there is a higher level in the BMAP program where the county will be assigned one person to address the beaver population at a cost of $60,000 per year to the County. Morris said the fees for each visit and removal of the beaver dams remains the same.
“It’s not just one place or one to two citizens, it’s the whole area. Because it has been dormant, nothing has been done for the last ten years. It’s getting worse,” said Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins.
She noted that landowners cannot place houses on certain tracts of land due to the flooding and beaver-related issues.
Commissioner Michael Cogdell asked about landowners who were uncooperative with the allowing the streams that cross their land to be cleaned. Morris replied that the BMAP program works with each individual land owner.
Chairman Peterson asked Bowen to work with Dean Morris of the Bladen County Soil and Water Department, Bladen County Planning Director Greg Elkins and County Manager Greg Martin to try to find more federal funding to help with the beaver population.