Posts Tagged ‘dams’

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Dam We’re Glad Never Happened

An artist’s rendering of the dam proposed at Tumblehead Falls.

This is an artist’s rendering of the dam proposed at Tumblehead Falls. For our simulation of its impact, click here.

Many of us know the story of the Great Sacandaga Reservoir, created in 1930 by the construction of the Conklingville Dam at what is now the reservoir’s north end. Approximately 28,000 acres of land were submerged and 3,000 people were displaced to prevent disasters like the great flood of 1913 that inundated Troy.

To make the way for the reservoir, hundreds of homes had to be submerged and entire cemeteries had to be moved.

Twenty-five years earlier, Glens Falls industrialists Eugene Ashley and Elmer J. West had proposed to similarly dam the Schroon River, not only to manage flooding but to catch and retain spring meltwater so that the stored water could be released during the late summer and fall when it was needed downriver to power water wheels and turbines. Their vision called for a 70-foot-tall containment dam that would have raised the level of Schroon Lake by 30 feet and combined it with Brant Lake, and Paradox Lake, creating a reservoir larger than Lake George.

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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.”

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Thursday, July 20, 2023

Public invited to informational sessions on Indian Lake dam maintenance

indian lake dam

John Callaghan, the Chairman of the Hudson River/Black River Regulating District (HRBRRD), has announced he has scheduled two informational meeting sessions at the Indian Lake Town Hall on August 21st to inform citizens about the upcoming maintenance construction on the Indian Lake dam. Engineers from the Bergmann Associates will also be there to answer questions. The early session will run from 2:30 PM to 4 PM, while the later session will run from 5:30 PM to 7 PM. The public is invited, and interested parties are encouraged to attend.

Photo by Zach Matson/Adirondack Explorer

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The tension surrounding wilderness dams

duck hole

Very few structures conform to the rigorous restrictions imposed on Adirondack wilderness areas – unless you are talking about dams.

Largely a remnant of the region’s logging industry, structures that impound the headwaters of scenic and wild rivers dot the park’s most remote corners. While no new dams can be built in wilderness areas, existing ones can be maintained, one of the few structures considered conforming.

Despite management plans that suggest the state should maintain its most remote dams, some have fallen deep into disrepair, while others have succumbed to storms in recent years (see Duck Hole and Marcy dams).

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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Who will pay for dam repairs?

The “Rainy-Dam Dam Failure” inundation map for Loon Lake Dam, showing the expected flood zone created if the dam failed during a massive storm.

We continued to run stories from our dam series this weekend. Join us as we shine a light on municipal dam owners. And dig into ways to improve dam safety drawn from the experiences of other states.

A handful of the Adirondack Park’s riskiest dams are owned by towns. Some of those towns have been slow to meet state requirements and  to pull together the financing needed to make (often costly) upgrades.

Town leaders say they need more financial support from the state to get the job done. The state says its the responsibility of all dam owners, including municipalities, to keep up with repair needs.

The other story outlines strategies that could be employed to improve a state dam safety program. Those strategies include raising funds through dam owner fees and strengthening risk analysis approaches.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Discussion time: Wilderness dams

The Explorer has been running a series on the 500+ dams that can be found within the Adirondack Park boundary. (Click here to see all the stories in the series) One of the articles specifically looks at dams that are in Wilderness areas. Marcy Dam is now gone and same with the dam that once made Duck Hole a celebrated paddling destination. Lake Colden is the only remaining dam.

The question remains: Do dams have a place in these protected areas? Should the state maintain the ones that remain? The article points to Lows Lake and the Boreas Ponds tract as examples of dams the state is willing to maintain. Weigh in here with your thoughts.

Photo at top: Debris from the old wilderness dam at Duck Hole. Photo by Mike Lynch

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.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Mapping unmapped dams

A small dam in Reber removed last year fragmented stream habitat even though it wasn't registered on the state's dam inventory, many hundreds like it may exist across the state. Photo by Zachary Matson.

Soon, I’ll be sharing a big story I’ve been working on, about the safety of the Adirondack Park’s most hazardous dams. The story focuses on hard-to-miss dams that have been closely monitored by state inspectors for decades. The dams likely pose the greatest public safety risk of any of the 500 Adirondack dams listed on the state’s dam inventory.

But many dams – or at least what remains of them – do not show up on any dam inventory, even as they fragment river ecosystems and threaten the migratory ability of numerous species.

These unmapped dams, known as “ghost dams,” certainly exist in the Adirondacks. A recent project led by The Nature Conservancy removed a small dam in Reber this summer to help extend important habitat for trout and salmon. The dam was not on the state’s inventory. Conservationists say there may be hundreds of such undocumented dams throughout the region.

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Thursday, December 1, 2022

DEC Announces More Than $500,000 Available for Grants to Support Eligible Dam Repairs

dec logoOn November 30, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced $564,925 in grant funding is now available to assist eligible dam owners with infrastructure repair costs. Funding is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) High Hazard Potential Dam grant program. DEC is accepting applications for grants to assist with technical, planning, design, and other pre-construction activities associated with the rehabilitation of eligible dams classified as High Hazard dams.

“Ensuring dam safety is a top priority for DEC and we encourage eligible dam owners to take advantage of this important funding,” said Commissioner Seggos. “The grants announced today [Nov. 30] will support pre-construction engineering and design activities as part of an overall program to help municipal and not-for-profit owners of High Hazard dams make necessary repairs and improve public safety.”

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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Dam repairs

indian lake dam

This fall the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District commenced construction at the Hawkinsville Dam in Boonville a few miles outside the Blue Line. The project includes upgrades, totaling about $1.7 million, to improve the dam’s safety and stability.

I haven’t written about the project because it falls outside the Adirondack Park, but it marks the start of a series of long-needed upgrades to the regulating district’s portfolio of dams, including some of the most iconic in the Adirondacks.

Conklingville Dam, which created the Great Sacandaga impoundment in the 1930s, has received around $20 million in state funding in recent years for the largest upgrade in the dam’s history. I visited the dam at the end of September for a valve test, descending into the heart of the dam where original hand-crank valves open the gates that let water through.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Proposed dams on the Upper Hudson: A look back

upper hudson dams

While researching an article on the Gilchrist bridge, I was asked about a river feature on the Hudson River, river left, just north ( up-river ) of the Washburn Eddy, or approximately 2 miles south of the Riparius Bridge.   To some the feature appeared as a “C” shaped “dug way” that could have allowed water from the river to “circulate” (be diverted) into the “C’.  To do what ?  Might this be a “channel” for water to be diverted into a hydroelectric powerhouse ?  A review of property / tax maps indicate that there was, across the river, an adjacent small piece of property approximately the same shape and size.  After some deed history research I may have found a possible explanation.  There was proposed (in 1911), several storage dams or containment dams with small power plants with penstocks or water pressure tunnels, planned along the Upper Hudson River in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.   This led to my exploration of these various proposed dams.

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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Once Upon a Dam

indian lake dam

By Daniel Way

Well, we’ve finally done it. The human race, which emerged from the mists of time millions of years ago, needed only two centuries since discovering fossil fuels to belch so much carbon dioxide and methane into the Earth’s atmosphere that our glaciers and permafrost are melting, sea levels are rising, and violent storms are causing massive damage to our farmlands, coastlines and residential areas. According to Bill McKibben, the avatar against climate change and founder of the worldwide environmental movement, mankind has pumped as much CO2 into the atmosphere since 1989 as it did in all of human history before that. Whole countries such as India, Micronesia, The Seychelles, Maldives, and other island countries may become unlivable or submerged, vast swaths of Australia and California are being incinerated, and mass extinctions are underway. Although some countries are belatedly taking real steps to combat climate change, ours as a nation is not one of them. Our individual states are left to deal with the problem in whatever way works best for them, if they do anything at all. 

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The End of Arbitrary Powers to Dam Adirondack Rivers

indian river

The State Legislature has just adjourned, but on a good many nights this past month I grew sleepy watching legislative TV or legislative proceedings on the internet. For the non-debate pieces of legislation, meaning when the legislative majority is not allowing minority debate on bills, the viewer is treated to the following exchanges in a monotone, one after the other:  The speaker or his representative, or the Senate president or her representative: “The clerk will read the bill.” The clerk: “a bill to” …whatever it does. The speaker or his representative: “The clerk will read the final section.” The clerk: “this act shall take effect immediately.” The speaker, president or their representative: “The vote: 63 in favor. The bill is passed.” All of that has taken less than ten seconds. Next.

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Keeping an eye on dirt

fall salmon river anglersThere are a lot of rivers, streams and lakes to visit. For casual observers, it’s sometimes hard to tell how natural they are. Last year, I spent some time digging into all the ways that dams along the Saranac River change the flow of water and the life of fish.

But dams change something else, too: dirt.

Dams hold back and can suddenly release dirt, or they change the way water flows and those changes, in turn, change how sand and gravel build up both before and after dams’ spot in the river. Whole books, including the classic textbook Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology, have been written on these changes to dirt accumulation, usually known by the more technical word “sediment.”

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Saturday, April 3, 2021

$650,000 in grant funding available for dam repairs

Floating islands going over Higley Dam, c. 1943Funding Available to Local Government and Non-Profit Owners of ‘High Hazard’ Dams for Pre-Construction Activities
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced $650,000 in grant funding is now available to assist eligible dam owners with infrastructure repair costs. Funding is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) High Hazard Potential Dam (HHPD) grant program. Of the dozens of states that applied to this federal program, New York was one of two states that received the maximum amount of funding. DEC is now accepting applications for grants to assist with technical, planning, design, and other pre-construction activities associated with the rehabilitation of eligible dams classified as High Hazard dams.

» Continue Reading.