Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Investigating dams of the Adirondacks

conklingville dam

Over 500 dams dot the Adirondack Park, shaping the physical and social landscape of the region more than any other infrastructure.

The dams are integral to Adirondack history and the way today’s residents and visitors experience the park. They also quietly threaten public safety.

For the past year, I compiled documents, visited dams, interviewed owners and examined the state of those hundreds of dams. This weekend we started rolling out a series of stories that explores the safety and ownership of the riskiest structures, the unique position of backcountry dams and lessons from other states about how to improve dam safety.

Check out the first set of stories online:

Here is a summary of the key findings from our reporting:

  • State inspectors judge 10 Adirondack high hazard dam as “unsound,” meaning their safety cannot be assured
  • Half of the park’s 50 intermediate hazard dams have failed to submit engineering assessments that were due in 2015
  • When state officials pursue enforcement of negligent owners, it can take years to compel repairs or removal
  • While dams are one of the few pre-existing structures allowed in wilderness areas, remote dams have seen little maintenance and are slowly deteriorating in backcountry waters
  • Other state dam programs demonstrate that more can be done to publicize important dam safety information, including maps that show the expected flood zones of dams if they were to ever fail

There are more stories to come this weekend and the weekend after that, including on wilderness dams and a look at dam safety strategies from across the country.

This first appeared in Zach’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

The Conklingville Dam. Photo by Zachary Matson


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Zachary Matson has been an environmental reporter for the Explorer since October 2021. He is focused on the many issues impacting water and the people, plants and wildlife that rely on it in the Adirondack Park. Zach worked at daily newspapers in Missouri, Arizona and New York for nearly a decade, most recently working as the education reporter for six years at the Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

3 Responses

  1. Charles Baudinet says:

    There should be a story that discusses the case for dam removal – the benefits of fish access, allowing the river to utilize its floodplain, sediment transport, etc.

  2. Keith says:

    Another obvious example of DEC / APA corruption in protecting wealthy landowners at the expense of the public that they are supposed to be protecting.

    Livingston Lake Dam #187-2760 and Middle Flow Dam # 187-4588 are not in Stony Creek as all the signage would have you believe. Both dams are in Day, Saratoga County.
    Simply look at Day Tax Map 001.00 (it is online).
    Note also that there is no road which is the purpose of the Middle Flow Dam either.
    Town of Day has stated they are unaware of any road at this location, yet a road leads to the club entrance.

    This last one mile extension of Lens Lake Road across private property through the Forest Preserve, across the county line to the Livingston Lake Club was illegally constructed as a private driveway to the Club after these lands were in State ownership. Historical maps prove it.

    DEC has colluded with the club so their 810 acres can receive a Fisher Act tax exemption which they do not deserve since the in-holding has no legal access which is a Fisher Act requirement.

    DEC and APA simply look away. The evidence is in plain sight

  3. Phil Terrie says:

    This is great journalism! The Explorer and Zach Matson are doing solid, invaluable work.

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