BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – The removal of a beaver dam from the Roebuck Springs Basin killed “thousands of endangered watercress darters and around two million snails,” and destroyed half their habitat, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources claims in Shelby County Court. The agency says Birmingham employees did not consult state or federal authorities about the “consequences or wisdom of removal of the dam.”
The city “knew or should have known that removing a beaver dam and surrounding natural structures would potentially disrupt the water level of the Basin and its inhabitants,” the agency claims.
It says the destruction of the dam caused a “serious dewatering event” that not only killed fish and snails, but also drained 80 to 90 percent of their habitat.
Watercress darters are protected fish that live in only four springs, all in Jefferson County, Ala. About 11,760 darters were killed when workers for the Birmingham Parks and Recreation Department removed the beaver dam on Sept. 19. 2008, according to the lawsuit.
The state wants Birmingham to pay actual and punitive damages for negligence, nuisance and trespass. It claims the city is also liable for property damage, because the dam removal “diverted a stream from its natural channel.”
The agency is represented by its general counsel, William A. Gunter.