County fights beaver battle
Dynamite, bulldozers and bullets will only keep the beavers at bay for a few months, but the county road department was out in force anyway Friday, taking out a series of the critters' dams near the intersection of Hwy. 367 and Baily Road.
The idea, said County Judge Bob Parish, was to open up a series of small creeks and allow water to flow freely to Des Arc Bayou, thereby reducing the potential for flooding in Higginson.
That small town was nearly completely submerged following a heavy rainstorm on April 25. Mobile homes in the Clift Trailer Park were surrounded by as much as three feet of water, and Searcy Road was blocked between Curruth Drive and Church Street.
The Higginson City Hall itself was flooded.
Residents said the flooding occurs each spring, but has been getting progressively worse.
Parish blames the city of Searcy for the flood problems. Searcy, he said, has allowed heavy development to occur along the eastern side of the city without worrying about where storm runoff will go.
The Wal-Mart distribution center, for example, covers 55 acres. Before it was built, rainfall stood in small pools and percolated through the soil before slowly making its way to surface streams. Now, with the land paved or covered with roofs, rainfall is immediately dumped into a small unnamed ditch that meanders along the west side of Baily Road.
Parish's road crew was clearing the ditch of beaver dams Thursday and Friday, and hoped to break through a new channel to send the bulk of the water southward to Gum Springs Creek, which skirts Higginson before joining Des Arc Bayou on the other side of town.
"What I'd like to do is put in a new canal, so the water can run right to Gum Springs Creek," said Parish. "But this is wetlands, so the [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers won't let us do that."
Instead, Parish had Harold Harrison, his crack "beaver control officer," on the scene. Harrison directed a backhoe driver to several dams, and watched as the structure was demolished. Halfway through the operation, Harrison pulled out a pistol and started shooting into the water.
"That was a snake, or a beaver, or something," he said.
Harrison "knows dynamite," said Parish. A grade operator for the southeastern portion of the county, Harrison is called upon whenever beavers become a problem.
"You can kill them, drain them out, get rid of them, run them off, but they'll just come right back," said Harrison of the beavers. "We took out three dams yesterday, but they came back last night and there were a few sticks put back up.
"To look at one of them," he continued, "they look old and decrepit, but once they get working, you can't keep up with them. I've been out here twice a year for the last five years."
The crew breached a two-acre beaver pond, and by afternoon the water had run downstream. Parish said the work had already taken water out of the yards of houses along Highway 367.
"We'll solve this problem," he said.