Hudson River-Black River Regulating District moves toward long-needed repairs
By Zachary Matson
A June 1920 state Conservation Commission inspection report of the Indian Lake Stone Dam at the northern outlet of Indian Lake found the dam constructed 22 years earlier to be “in very good condition,” but the report highlighted “two slight leaks.” Accompanying sketches located the stone leaks in the dam’s hulking downstream face.
“Two or three minor leaks thru masonry abutment might, by freezing and expanding, cause trouble,” the inspector noted.
Over 100 years later, those same leaks, which have been noted in dozens of inspection reports, continue to spill water through the stone face. An on-site operator monitors daily water flows as the state agency that owns the dam tracks whether the problem is worsening.
The Indian River Co., a consortium of logging companies, built the dam in 1898 with the proceeds from a sale of tens of thousands of acres of Adirondack land to the state, including what would become the Indian Lake reservoir.
The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, a state agency charged with flood control, took ownership of the dam in 1989. It’s near the top of the queue as the district prepares major repairs at a handful of dams in the park, including Sixth Lake, another high hazard dam rated unsound, and Old Forge Dam, an intermediate hazard dam rated unsound. The agency also owns the Conklingville Dam, which is scheduled for about $40 million in upgrades, a project earmarked by the state Legislature and managed by the state Office of General Services.
The district in 2022 started repairs at Hawkinsville Dam in the outskirts of the park and is in various stages of design, bidding and construction for repairs at four others. Over the next decade, the repairs could resolve a litany of longstanding needs in the agency’s aging portfolio.
“Now that Conklingville is not the thing that has us in pause mode, we are in a position to move forward in a significant way on the other projects,” said John Callaghan, the district’s executive director.
Designed repairs at Indian Lake may happen in 2023. They include filling gaps and seams and overhauling the original gate system, a relic of turn-of-the-20th-century Adirondack ingenuity. The various projects will be funded by a mix of the agency’s budget, state appropriations and planned borrowing.
In Old Forge, the district is working with municipal leaders to repair the dam at the center of town in tandem with work on the adjacent waterfront park, the site of the start of the annual 90-miler Adirondack Canoe Classic.
After the regulating district’s board held its May meeting in Old Forge, board members joined Town of Webb elected officials at the dam to brainstorm upgrades to the waterfront: improved accessibility, pickleball courts, a covered ice rink, a boardwalk, a new canoe launch. Kurt Gardner first ran for the Webb Town Board in 2008 on a platform to improve the park.
“We want to celebrate it,” he said.
Ray Higgins says
Why not include a small hydro-electric power unit during the repairs? There are many small systems available that would be powerful enough to provide clean electricity for much of the area.
MARK WENCKUS says
I am an independent hydropower professional of 40 plus years and am excited to be able to present small hydropower options during dam repairs. See us at http://www.wenckushydroengineering.com
Mark Wenckus President