The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 29, 2014

Ask Us: Beaver dam destruction ratted out

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Q: Twice a beaver has erected a dam in the wetland surrounded by Highway 22 and County Roads 82 and 83 on Mankato's southeastern corner, and a backhoe was brought in to rip it out. Why was this done? There are places to leave nature the way it is, and this wetland would be a good place for local science teachers to bring students.

A: Ask Us Guy's first suspect, when it comes to beaver dam removal, is the county ditch management office. Their job, after all, is to keep the water flowing so that land is properly drained.

"That's not county tile, so I had nothing to do with it," said Blue Earth County ditch manager Craig Austinson.

O.K., Stadium Road is just to the north of the wetland, and that's a county road, so maybe the county's Public Works Department was involved.

"It's a MnDOT pond," said Public Works Director Al Forsberg.

But when MnDOT spokeswoman Rebecca Arndt was called to verify that the state was responsible, Arndt said she didn't believe that was a MnDOT-controlled wetland.

Ask Us Guy knows what you're thinking: "Maybe that cat that's been ripping the head off of area bunnies decided to take on larger rodents, somehow got it's paws on a backhoe and ... ."

But, no, Arndt called back a few minutes later with the real answer.

"Tony DeSantiago confessed to removing the beaver dam," Arndt said of the regional highway maintenance supervisor. "What happened is beavers got in there and built a dam, and area residents requested we remove it out of concern that water would back up in their basements."

The reader was correct that the beavers didn't give up after the dam was removed the first time.

"We did it twice and we haven't seen 'em since," Arndt said.

As for the site being used for science field trips, that's not really MnDOT's thing so it would probably have to be some sort of community-generated initiative. But there's likely to be even more students on that end of town who could benefit from an environmental learning park because the new middle school is proposed for either the southern or eastern side of the community.

Q: When is the city going to put a better street light on the intersection of Hoffman Road and Hosanna Drive? I realize they will be doing some improvements to Hoffman Road this year but the little Colonial Style street light currently there is so dim, it is very hard to see the corner at night coming from Hoffman Road. I hope they make that a priority and not wait for the road improvement. There are many new homes in the neighborhood and it would benefit the residents right now.

A: Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges agrees that the intersection should have better lighting, but it probably won't change until the decorative lighting reaches the end of its useful life. The developer in that area asked for the decorative lighting and paid extra for it, but the city has since realized that more of those types of street lights are necessary to provide the same level of illumination as the traditional intersection street light that's higher and hangs out over the roadway.

"They look nice, but you need a lot of them," Hentges said, adding that the new policy for using decorative lighting reflects that realization.

The decorative lights are probably OK in low traffic residential streets, as long as a few extras are added. But for a higher traffic road like Hoffman, a "cobra-head" light would have been more appropriate, he said. (Cobra-head lights, first introduced in 1957, are the standard urban light that looks a bit like the snake's head.)

"It is/was a mistake in the application at that intersection," Hentges said of the decorative lights.

While Hoffman is going to be resurfaced this summer, that probably won't lead to street light changes. Barring pedestrian accident rates that require immediate changes, the decorative lights will probably stay in place until they're fully amortized, he said.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to; put Ask Us in the subject line.