Monday, September 4, 2023

Repairs planned for Indian Lake dam

indian lake dam

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has announced repairs to an aging stone dam that holds back the massive waters of Indian Lake, an impoundment that spans more than 4,000 acres.

The Explorer’s Gwendolyn Craig reports the cost is $11 million, with repairs to the leaking, “high hazard” dam to begin in October and take about two years to complete.

A high-hazard dam is one in which, according to the state, “failure may result in widespread or serious damage to home(s); damage to main highways, industrial or commercial buildings, railroads, and/or important utilities, including water supply, sewage treatment, fuel, power, cable or telephone infrastructure; or substantial environmental damage; such that the loss of human life or widespread substantial economic loss is likely.”

The repairs will fix existing flaws and make the dam more resilient to climate change going forward.

The Adirondacks can be a dangerous place – for neophytes who don’t know the rules, written and unwritten.

The Explorer’s Mike Lynch wrote that a 315-mile swim of the Hudson by activist Lewis Pugh got off to a rocky start when a photographer documented his start at Lake Tear of the Clouds, the Hudson’s source, with footage from a drone.

It was a nice aesthetic touch. Illegal, but nice. Motors in the wilderness are not allowed, nor is commercial filming without a permit. While the former rule is somewhat regarded as common knowledge, the wilderness-filming rider might have surprised even some grizzled ADK vets.

Anyway, when the footage was posted to social media, readers pounced. So did the DEC, which fined the drone company $200. The drone company called it an “honest oversight.”

Meanwhile, the adventure caught the fancy of New York Times metro writer Jesse McKinley, who decided to hike to Lake Tear of the Clouds himself, in search of a “remote dateline.”

McKinley wrote, “To say that I was unprepared was an understatement: I didn’t have boots or a backpack. I was wearing treadless running shoes and a pair of shorts from college. (Note: I am a long way out of college.) I didn’t have a map, a trail guide or even food. But I really wanted that dateline.”

Well, talk about waving a red flag in front of a bull. ADK commenters to the story were not shy in their “constructive criticism” of the venture.

“Are you not aware of the ongoing issue of the lack of DEC forest rangers in the Adirondack Park and how they are so overworked due to the increased use of the park resulting in the increase in hiker rescues?” wrote one responder.

McKinley did not reach Lake Tear of the Clouds, largely because he took the wrong route and ended up atop Mt. Marcy. Not a bad consolation prize.

And along with their finger wagging, a number of commentators did recall some of their own rookie mistakes.

As for the Hudson River Swim, Pugh said he hopes to “highlight the critical importance of river health to the health of the world’s oceans and the overall global environment,” according to a press release about his adventure.

At top: Indian Lake dam Photo by Zach Matson

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

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Tim Rowland is a humor columnist for Herald-Mail Media in Hagerstown, Md., and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include High Peaks; A History of Hiking the Adirondacks from Noah to Neoprene and Strange and Unusual Stories of New York City. He has climbed the 46 high peaks, is an avid bicyclist, and trout tremble with fear when they see his approaching shadow. He and his wife Beth are residents of Jay, N.Y.

8 Responses

  1. John powers says:

    Maybe I’m just an old feud but I fly fish because I love it. Not to RAISE AWARENESS. Why these bogus awareness heightening premises. You love swimming so swim. Gotta love AN Englishman raising our awareness over a river we know and love.

  2. Paul Kietzman says:

    It’s an absolute crying shame that hydroelectric generation was never remotely considered by the Governor in her role as policy-maker and budget manager. The Town got a FERC preliminary permit and a $50k local assistance grant for Indian Lake dam hydro which funded an extremely optimistic feasibility study. Whatever the actual cost of dam repairs, ALL of it could be bonded and repaid in 27 years by dam-generated revenues. The Governor’s assistant Secretary has been utterly unresponsive to those of us who put together the proposal and study. The Gov’s press releases on green energy seem totally ephemeral.

    • Tom Paine says:

      You make sense. However, common sense and Albany have never gone together. And the green religious order would never tolerate the building of a hydroelectric dam within the blue line. No matter how green the idea maybe. NIMBY.

      • Dana says:

        Isn’t Paul talking about renovating one existing structure? It makes sense to me as long as it is done properly without expanding its footprint significantly.

  3. Paul Kietzman says:

    Hee hee! Every HRBRRD-run dam in the park (exception being Croghan) has hydro. The tiny dam at Wells has hydro. Hydro has never killed a bird and even generates in a blizzard. Still, I’m afraid you’re right.

  4. Paul Kietzman says:

    Our feasibility study assumed no dam expansion. It also included an additional dam impounding Lake Abenakee. That dam is maybe 11 feet in head, meaning a water temperature you’d cheerfully bathe in heading down to the upper Hudson. All the applications and the local assistance grant were made in the name of the Town of Indian Lake, which, like most every town in Hamilton County, could sorely use the start up employment and the ongoing revenue. We got the FERC permit in competition with Brookfield Interplanetary.

    • Dick Carlson says:

      Both dams, IL and Abanakee should be making power. It’s a total lost opportunity. More press to embarrass Albany is in order. Good work on your efforts!

  5. Paul Kietzman says:

    Thanks for expressions of support! A couple of additional points for those with environmental concerns: the Indian River proceeds northward for about a mile into Lake Abenakee which is perhaps 5 miles long, average depth perhaps 5 feet? The Abenakee dam, owned by the Town has roughly a quarter of the dam head of the IL dam, but up to 25% more water volume. Directly below the Abenakee dam are the “otter slides” with another 9 foot drop, suitable for in-stream generating equipment. The deed in to NYS involving the IL dam and appurtenant real estate seems to specify that the dam structure itself can never become part of the forest preserve. The stretch from the Abenakee dam to the Cedar and then Hudson Rivers is prime whitewater rafting territory, so that coordinated dam releases already take place.

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