No word from state on when ‘beaver gates’ will be ready

  • (L-R) Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith, Assistant Public Works Director Paul Raskevitz, Conservation Commission member Brian Hall, Millers River Watershed Council Executive Director Ivan Ussach, Joanie MacPhee, and Max MacPhee discuss the possible construction of ‘beaver gates’ near Lake Ellis. (Seated, back to camera) Clerk Lori Kay and member Bill Hogan. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 5/3/2023 2:41:03 PM
Modified: 5/3/2023 2:40:37 PM

ATHOL – Members of the Lake Ellis Watershed Management Partnership are still awaiting word from the Department of Transportation on when hardware to thwart beaver activity will be installed.

At a recent meeting of the partnership, Assistant Public Works Director Paul Raskevitz said these devices—known as beaver gates—would be installed in the culverts that run under Route 2 between Lake Ellis and wetlands to the south of the highway.

“We’re in the same spot we were in last fall. We actually haven’t heard anything back from the state,” he said following April 26 meeting. “This spring they’re supposed to install what they call beaver gates. They said they were the first of their kind in the state, that they were going to try them out there.”

He told the partnership that state officials had spoken with the town and the gates had been designed and a contractor hired, though this was last fall.

Planning and Development Director Eric Smith said that aside from the issue of the culverts, a suggestion in the Lake Ellis Management Plan was the creation of a beaver monitoring program. However, a search for examples of similar plans in other communities came up short. The only example he was able to track down was a possible study of beaver colonies in the Stillwater River Basin, which feeds the Wachusett Reservoir.

“I went back into my records to see if I could find anything,” said Athol Health Agent Deb Vondal. “I did find an interesting report from Billerica that sort of looked at all the areas of their town and where the problems were and came up with solutions.”

The study, she said, covered 2000-2019, adding that the town had worked with Beaver Solutions of Southampton. The company, according to its website, “specializes in beaver control through flow devices, beaver removal and beaver trapping, and beaver dam removal in culverts and drainage structures.”

Vondal said she had gone through records in her office that provided details on the beaver permits that had been issued in Athol over a 20-year span, adding, “It seems kind of odd that this got put into our hands so long ago.”

In a subsequent interview, Vondal said problems with beavers around Lake Ellis accounted for 47 of the approximately 109 permits issued between 2002 and 2022. All beaver permits, she explained, grant permission for the animals to be exterminated. Vondal said that a number of those 47 permits address issues at the Route 2 culverts.

“The culvert is the biggest culprit,” said Vondal, “but there are various other locations, like around the islands there were some beavers caught also.”

The last beaver permit issued to address a problem at the culverts was granted last year. In total, three permits were issued for Lake Ellis in 2022.

The partnership agreed a reliable plan to provide consistency in dealing with the beavers around Lake Ellis needs to be developed and attempts will be made to collect more information on how other municipalities have addressed this. The issue is of importance to residents living around the lake because, if beavers manage to block the culverts that drain it, heavy rains can cause the water level of Lake Ellis to rise to a point where property is in danger of being flooded.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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