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Dam, beaver: Industrious mammal could be the cause of T'Railway washout in Whitbourne

Beaver with its baby chewing on wood. Hungry beavers can make alder shrubs disappear quickly. Alder is also a prized food for deer, moose and birds. STOCK IMAGE
When a beaver really gets his teeth into a job, there can be plenty of consequences, including diversion of water. There is a suggestion a beaver might be at least partially to blame for washout that occurred on the Newfoundland T'Railway at Whitbourne this week. — Stock Image

But president of the association promoting development of old CNR railbed says ths really isn't a new problem

There’s a possibility the washout of the Newfoundland T’Railway in Whitbourne this week was a product of the hands nature.

Or maybe the teeth of nature.

“I can’t swear to anything because I’m in Deer Park, 25 kilometres away (from Whitbourne) as I speak, but if I was going to make a good guess on this one, I would point out that we have been dealing with a problem beaver in that area,” said Rick Noseworthy, president of the Newfoundland T’Railway Council, the non-profit group dedicated to the recreational development of what used to be Canadian National Railway's rail bed.

“We had a call about the beaver in that area about two weeks ago.”

A section of the Newfoundland T'Railway near Whitbourne is closed because of this washout. — Contributed
A section of the Newfoundland T'Railway near Whitbourne is closed because of this washout. — Contributed

The washout in question is approximately halfway between the Whitbourne/Markland access and Route 100 (the Argentia Access Road). The RCMP is advising the public the area is very dangerous, with fast-moving water running through the washed-out portion and are asking them to stay away until repairs can be made. 

Barricades are in place.

Noseworthy points out it takes more than a beaver to cause such a problem. There needs to be lots of water, too.

“And you know, we’ve had a lot of rain in that area,” he said. “I live in C.B.S. and I know the Manuels River is pretty high, but water levels in this area are even higher. 

“I came up here my place (in Deer Park) and there is stuff floating down by the waterfront that’s never floated before. 

“The back part of my ramp going out to my wharf normally is two feet onshore, but now it’s a foot underwater.”

Noseworthy says washouts on the T’Railway are not uncommon, although he noted they seem to be more likely to happen in the western part of the province.

“It’s just that this one is pretty big and happened in a populated area and in an area where it has never happened before, so it’s getting a lot of attention.

“But problems with beavers, culverts and the T’Railway aren’t really new to us.”

Since the T’Railways is officially a provincial park, government inspectors will be the ones assessing the damage and determining what will need to be done to close the chasm resulting from the Whitbourne washout.

As a for a timeline for repairs, Noseworthy says that will be subject to variables, or want he calls “I-don’t-knows."

“And there are a few ‘I-don’t-knows’ here,” he said. “For one, it will certainly be weather-dependent. If you are going to backfill or put in a culvert, it's hard to do when the water is running like that and harder still when it’s raining.”

And if a beaver is indeed the cause of the problem, or a contributor to it, that will be an issue that needs addressing.

“Not to make light of it, but if that is the really cause (of the washout), it’s not a matter of a wildlife officer pulling up, blowing the horn and having the beaver jump in the back of the truck

“It takes time and effort to catch them.”

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