Financial changes in beaver control program in Clay County

By Sheena Baker/The Daily Times Leader

WEST POINT — Dozens of landowners in Clay County can attest to problems with beavers affecting their property, and several roads, bridges and other properties in the county over the years have also bore its share of beaver damage.

Last September the Clay County Board of Supervisors voted to participate in Mississippi’s Beaver Control Assistance Program, which routinely uses explosives to remove beaver dams that flood properties.

During this time Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District paid 100 percent of the board’s enrollment fee to participate in the program, but in January TRVWMD voted to change their beaver program funding policy.

Now, TRVWMD will only pay half of the cost of the fee, leaving the county to come up with the remaining funds to cover the project.

Clay County Chancery Clerk Amy Berry said after the county pays Wildlife Services the full cost for beaver control in the county TRVWMD will reimburse the county for half of the total cost up to $10,000.

The county’s beaver control program enrollment fee this past year was $7500, which was paid recently through the chancery clerk’s Office.

TRVWMD was then sent a bill for reimbursement of half this fee, and all five Clay County districts will evenly pay the remaining $3,750.

Johnny Carter, wildlife/explosives specialist for Wildlife Services, provides beaver control services to Clay County and said there are a few changes this year in the way Wildlife Services operates due to the 2010 move by Congress to pull all earmarks.

Carter said the federal subsidy funds the counties got were taken away and at the end of their last fiscal year, USDA Wildlife Services operated on reserve funds, which are now all gone.

“We thought the program was going to be completely gone, but (the Mississippi Department of Transportation) stepped up and picked up those funds that the federal side took away from us,” Carter said. “What that has done as far as what it means to the county is it’s given MDOT first priority and given counties second priority.”

Carter said this year there is not as much beaver control work needed for MDOT as it is for county properties. Since MDOT is helping to fund the beaver program under Wildlife Services, Carter said MDOT doesn’t want all the money going to county beaver projects.

“One thing that MDOT really pointed out was their concern about putting — they already put in $250,000 in the original program then they picked up an extra $450,000 — so their concern about adding that extra so we can even be here at all was them dumping all the money in and all the work going to the counties. So they’re going to be kind of watching how we operate this.”

The $7,500 that the board sends to Beaver Control Program is kept and managed in an account. When the board request beaver control work in a particular area, Wildlife Services will deduct the expenses related to the work from the account.

This pattern will continue until the funds in the account run out unless the board opts to add more money into the account.

Carter said the same work at the same rate can be done on private land provided that it does not affect county roads.

Currently the initial assessment on private property for beaver damage requires no fee, but Carter said that could change.

Berry said this year TRVWMD has allocated $10,000 in matching funds to Clay County for beaver assistance. Along with the $3,750 match the county will be reimbursed, the county still has a remaining matching fund balance of $6,250.

So in the future if there is a beaver control project the county wants completed TRVWD will reimburse half the cost of the project and the board can still use the other $6,250 in matching funds to cover the remaining balance of the project, Berry said.