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Out and About: Pond Leveler Installation
AWC-WPAC | water, watershed, and wildlife | August 2021

Ashley Johnson, Science and Education Coordinator

written on July 29th, 2021

On July 28th, Sarah (our watershed planner) and I drove out to a site about 20 minutes away from Barrhead, to meet up with people from Barrhead, Thorhild, Westlock, and Athabasca counties at the invitation of Lisa Card from Highway 2 Conservation. Luckily it was a gorgeous day, which worked well for what we came to do: install a pond leveler.  

At this point, you’re probably wondering what is a pond leveler? As many of you know, part of a county’s responsibilities includes beaver control. Usually, that involves trapping or dam blasting, but pond levelers are now being added to the beaver control toolbox. Pond levelers are a device that maintains water flow even in the presence of beavers. The pond leveler consists of a pipe, with a cage at the upstream side that gets sunk into the water, while the downstream end overhanging on the other side of the dam. This creates a permanent breach in the dam, preventing the water from rising beyond the desired water level. When the beavers hear running water, they will add sticks and mud on the upstream side, but leave the downstream end of the pipe alone. 

This site made for a good location to put one in; a pond right next to a range road, one where a beaver dam could likely flood the road. While water levels weren’t too high and there were no beavers this year, the area is perfect habitat for them, and no doubt they’ll be back, even if in the future you blew up the dam and trapped out all the beavers.  

To make a pond leveler, you need the right materials. For us, this was galvanized hog paneling, plastic culvert piping, T-posts, a boat, and an assortment of other tools. We also had an inflatable tube that was supposed to help us float it out into the pond, but unfortunately it got punctured by an errant piece of hog wire.  

Here’s some pictures of the assembly process: 

Once we got it mostly assembled, we took a break, partly for lunch, and partly for some stragglers to arrive and help out with putting the pond leveler in place.  

Putting the pond leveler in ended up being a little bit more exciting than we had planned. Sarah nearly lost a boot to mud, we accidentally popped the tube we meant to use to float the leveler out, and one of the representatives from Athabasca County ended the day with water filling up his chest waders trying to help get the leveler off the back of the boat. 

Because there were no beavers present, and water levels were low this year, we weren’t worried about getting the leveler completely installed. The last steps will be to dig a trench in the dam, so the leveler is sitting at the ideal water level, and securing it in place with T-posts. 

If you’re interested in potentially getting a leveler installed on your property, feel free to reach out to Sarah MacDonald, the AWC’s Watershed Planner, at science@awc-wpac.ca 

To learn more about installing a pond leveler, check out this video from Cows and Fish (the Riparian Habitat Management society: Beaver Pond Leveller Installation – Training Session)