Gilbert said she does not know who placed a sign at the entrance to the subdivision, but when she saw it on Sunday she thought, “Hooray!”
The plain white sign proclaims in neat penmanship, “The Bradley County Commission would like to welcome you to E. coli Bottoms.”
Bradley County Commissioner Adam Lowe said he did not think it was one of the residents because he has been working with them within the extent of his authority.
“I’ve been working with the Royal Oaks Homeowners Association to resolve the beaver issue,” Lowe said Thursday. “My understanding is that the property owners adjacent to the creek have given the homeowners association money to resolve the issue. Late last year, eight beavers were trapped. A new crew of beavers have moved in.”
Gilbert said eight properties are affected by an ever-expanding wetland. Some of the owners live out of state and some live out of the country. Only two of the lots have houses on them. The other six are vacant, unimproved lots.
In 2010, Gilbert corresponded with all eight property owners, three of whom never responded. The remaining five shared the expense of $1,200 to have the beavers and dams removed.
“Water receded and we had water flow in the creek,” she said. “But, we soon realized that doesn’t get the job done.”
She said during the holidays and by the time the snow melted, more beavers came in and built bigger and wider dams.
In February, Gilbert said she and some of the property owners met with Dr. Dick Urban from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation field office in Chattanooga, and a contractor to consider “where do we go from here? Everyone was surprised to see how it had developed and at its magnitude. It is now developing into a jurisdictional wetland.”
Since then, Gilbert said she spoke with two trappers who both confirmed everything has to be removed — all the trees and roots.
“Small trees are (beavers’) favorite food source and construction material,” she said. “They have a paradise there.”
After the beavers, their dams and their food sources are removed, the ground dries she said they would have to keep the creek in golf course-like condition. It costs $80 a beaver to trap and $300 a month to monitor the site, which could be up to 12 months, she said.
“I have no idea how much it would cost for excavation and then it would be followed by perpetual care,” she said.
Lowe said he requested at the March 24 Commission workshop that the Bradley County Road Department and Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority investigate to see if it is a threat to the county right of way and the new airport.
County Attorney Joseph Byrd said nothing from a legal standpoint has changed.
“It is still on private property and something that impacts private landowners and I understand they have had the beavers removed but the beavers came back,” he said. “It is still on private property and it’s still a private matter.”
He said if one landowner has water coming onto their property, then legal action could be taken against the landowners who allowed the beaver dams to remain.
“But it is not a county issue at this point because the water has not come up onto the county right of way,” Byrd said.
He said Americans believe in limited government intrusion into their lives and that’s what exists and the county cannot get involved until it reaches the right of way, which varies along county roads.
He said if even the water reaches the right of way after a rain and then recedes, that is still not enough for the county to intercede.
He said if it becomes a jurisdictional wetlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would become involved and the site might have to be mitigated in another location.
Byrd said there is no indication bird strikes by aircraft would result at the neighboring airport because of an increasing population of waterfowl.