Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Floods In Beaver Creek Marsh

In early February 1996, the Beaver Creek Marsh filled with water and there was two feet of water on N. Beaver Creek Rd. (County Road 602) that passes through the lower marsh.  Flooding in the Beaver Creek Marsh is a relatively common occurrence but water on the road is less common.  

  Trying to go east on Beaver Ck. Rd.  Photo © Steve Card   
Two feet of water on Beaver Creek Rd. (1/2 mile from Hwy 101)
Flood flotsam line next to Hwy 101 bridge over Beaver Creek

A normal function of wetlands is to buffer stream flows by absorbing large inputs of water.  These inputs can be associated with rainfall, blockage of the stream mouth, storm waves, and tsunamis.  Notable flood years associated with high rainfall in the Beaver Creek watershed include 1861, 1890, 1909, 1927, 1953, 1955, 1964, 1974, 1982, 1983 and 1996, while floods in 1941, 1948 and 1949 were blamed on high tides and sand deposits that blocked the mouth of the creek (USFS 2001).  In December 2 & 3, 1967, large storm waves struck the coast and washed large logs through Ona Beach State Park, across U.S. Highway 101, and up into Beaver Creek Marsh (DOGAMI, Bulletin 81 1973).  On March 29, 1964, 11 foot tsunami waves passed through Ona Beach State Park, across U.S. Highway 101, and into Beaver Creek Marsh.

Several newspaper articles from local newspapers during the 1940’s and 1950’s that were compiled by Range Bayer describe frequent flooding in the lower Beaver Creek and at the mouth (flooding at Beaver Creek was noted in articles dated February 25, 1926; March 4, 1926; December 25, 1941; November 18, 1948; November 17, 1949; and November 6, 1952). This 1948 article from the Waldport Record describes the conditions at the mouth of the creek: 
During the freak storm of two weeks ago, high waves did so much damage at Beaver Creek that the normal channel became clogged with debris and sand. The creek could not empty into the ocean as usual with the result that its waters backed up inland. The road was soon covered with water and the mill-pond of the C and H Lumber Company over flowed. The mill was forced to shut down and the cars of people living up the Creek had to be towed in and out by the company trucks. Finally road conditions got so bad that not even these could get through. Dynamiting to open the channel was the only solution and this the company proceeded to do. A few hours later, the creek had found its bed nearly 3 feet below the level of the sand deposited by the high water. Everyone in the vicinity is grateful to the lumber company and the State and County workers who spared neither time nor energy in this emergency.

A December 8, 1949 article from the Lincoln County Times reported on a hearing for Beaver Creek flood control. It describes the cause of frequent flooding this way: 
Conditions at the mouth of Beaver Creek have been such that ocean swells and tides have prevented the natural flow of the stream. This has resulted in the annual flooding of many acres of good farm land; as well as the formation of a permanent swamp. Beneath this swamp lies about a thousand acres of peat soil which can be surpassed no where as far as fertility and productiveness is concerned.
In the mid-60‘s, farmers of Beaver Creek valley persuaded the County Road Department to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the mouth of Beaver Creek and maintain the mouth sill at the bedrock level.  Maintenance of this level caused the water level in the marsh to fall and expose farmer’s land upstream.  This permit was active until the mid-90’s and has not been renewed.    

Posted by michael

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