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Crews repair damage from busted beaver dam along Route 4 in Epsom

  • New Hampshire Department of Transportation crews rebuild the shoulders along a section of Route 4 on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2018. A burst beaver dam flooded the road on Monday. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Department of Transportation crews rebuild the shoulders along a section of Route 4 on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2018. A burst beaver dam flooded the road on Monday. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Department of Transportation crews rebuild the shoulders along a section of Route 4 on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2018. A burst beaver dam flooded the road on Monday. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Tuesday, August 07, 2018

It’s unusual but not unknown in New Hampshire for a beaver dam to break and the resulting flood to damage a road, as happened Monday on Route 4 in Epsom.

“In the last 20 years, I’d say we’ve had probably four cases in this state similar to the Epsom one ... a couple that damaged a roadway and another one that the water got in a house,” said Jim Gallagher, chief engineer with the New Hampshire Bureau of Dams.

The dam was not very big by human standards, perhaps 5 or 6 feet high, but the gush of water after it broke was enough to eat away at the busy road and force it to be partly closed until Department of Transportation officials repaired it Tuesday.

“That just goes to show the power of water when it’s released all of a sudden,” Gallagher said.

The dam was on an unnamed pond about a half-mile from the second of road near the Epsom traffic circle that swelled due to the intermittently heaven rains in July. It was confirmed as the source of the flooding after the Epsom Fire Department sent up a drone for a bird’s-eye view.

Videos taken by drivers showed sheets of water pouring across the road Monday evening, and a section of the shoulder was eaten away and collapsed. Repairs were finished by Tuesday.

New Hampshire had virtually no beavers a century ago due to over-hunting, partly because beavers are sometimes considered pests and partly because beaver pelts were valuable for clothing in the 19th century.

They were reintroduced in the state in the late 1920s, and by 1955 they had spread throughout the entire state. It’s not clear how many live in New Hampshire, but enough that a half-dozen companies exist in the Concord area alone which can trap and remove them if their dams become a problem.

In state government, the Department of Environmental Services’ wetlands bureau most often deals with beaver dams and the ponds and bogs that they create. Gallagher said the biggest issue they pose to the dam bureau is slightly ironic: Beavers sometimes repair ruptures in human dams that have been deliberately made because the dams are outdated.

“They are a real issue – our dam operators have to continually take care of beaver debris,” he said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)