The decision is final: Marcy Dam will be torn down.
As reported last month on the Almanack, the state Department of Environmental Conservation plans to dismantle the dam, which was damaged in Tropical Storm Irene, over the next five years. At the time, though, the department was waiting to hear from the public on the proposal.
Recently, I submitted a freedom-of-information request to review the public comments. Given the popularity of the dam, I was surprised to learn that DEC heard from only two people—and both agreed that the dam should be removed.
One of the writers, Wallace Elton, suggested that a dam failure would damage the environment downstream and put people at risk. “The expense of rebuilding the dam to today’s safety standards cannot be justified with current funding limitations,” he wrote. “Beyond that, this is an opportunity to re-wild a key area in the heart of the Forest Preserve.”
The second person, Mary Kunzler-Larmann, told DEC: “I like your idea of taking it down in stages, allowing vegetation to stabilize the sediment. Good work.”
DEC spokesman David Winchell told the Almanack that the decision to remove the dam is now final and that a permit for the project will be issued within a few weeks. He expects the work to begin in August when water levels are low.
Marcy Dam was constructed around the turn of the last century to facilitate log drives on Marcy Brook. It was rebuilt twice, most recently in the early 1970s.
Before Irene, the pond behind the dam served as the serene foreground for an iconic vista that included Mount Colden, Avalanche Pass, and Wright Peak. The floods caused by the 2011 storm broke the dam, leaving the pond a mudflat. The floods also swept away the dam’s bridge, which allowed hikers to cross Marcy Brook. DEC has built a new bridge a few hundred feet downstream.
Photo by Carl Heilman II: Marcy Dam soon after Tropical Storm Irene.