State, local officials work on fixes after summer floods
By Gwendolyn Craig
Dam owners in the town of Long Lake are facing an approximate $3.4 million bill to replace the infrastructure after it “failed catastrophically” following heavy July rainstorms, engineers said.
The Long Lake Park Dam, which includes the Jennings Pond causeway, is in the heart of the central Adirondack town and is privately owned by George Carrothers. He, and some adjacent property owners, received an August letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ordering them to submit a schedule for a permanent fix or complete rebuild by Oct. 16. Jennings Pond looks more like a swampy marsh than a pond now.
The town’s consulting engineers said “complete removal and replacement of the existing structure with a new more modern structure (is) estimated in the amount of $3.4 million,” according to a Sept. 25 letter. The cost has distressed Carrothers, who hopes the town will take ownership of about one acre of his three for $130,000.
Carrothers operates a coffee shop and kayak rental business on Jennings Pond, across the street from the Long Lake town beach. He has allowed the town to use his property for fireworks displays and fishing tournaments. He owns part of Jennings Pond, Middle Island, Pine Island, the causeway and dam. His price, he told the Explorer, would include the causeway and dam and access to a right-of-way past the kayak shop. Carrothers said he would also consider negotiating an easement.
Should the town own the infrastructure, he reasoned, it could apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to fix it. FEMA funds are available to “state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms and flooding,” FEMA said.
Clay Arsenault, supervisor of Long Lake, said he did not have a comment on the ownership question at this time.
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Either way, Carrothers is making the case that the town should somehow help with repair costs considering it uses his property and its own culvert blew out upstream on Shaw Brook. He thinks the town should be liable for any breakages of dams downstream. The DEC issued an emergency authorization to Long Lake for work on the Shaw Brook culvert.
Carrothers said he will not be meeting the DEC’s Oct. 16 deadline. The DEC said its enforcement of Long Lake Park Dam repairs continues, adding it “works with all willing parties to achieve water quality and dam safety compliances and urges all dam owners to work together to determine how they will share the responsibility for fixing, reconfiguring and/or operating the dam in a safe and stabilized condition as required by the state Environmental Conservation Law.” The department said it “will consider real and timely progress made towards meeting the deadline noted.”
In response to the Explorer’s question about funding opportunities for private dam owners, the DEC said high- and intermediate-hazard dams take priority. The Long Lake Park Dam is considered a low-hazard dam.
Carrothers just wants Jennings Pond back the way it used to be – full of water. “We’re working towards a solution,” he said.
Other post-flood updates
Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation is working to install a permanent bridge over Fishing Brook on state Route 28N after it washed out in the same rainstorm. A DOT spokesperson said it hopes to have it in place before freezing temperatures, sometime in November.
And about 13 miles down the road, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Newcomb campus continues its cleanup from the July storms and additional heavy rainstorms since. Stacy McNulty, associate director, said the campus received about 23 inches of rain from June to August, compared to about 13 inches in a normal season.
The ESF Adirondack Interpretive Center trails remain closed “due to flooding damage along the upper Hudson River drainage,” McNulty said. It’s not clear when those trails will be reconstructed. The trail up Goodnow Mountain has been reopened.
Repairs continue on roads around campus. Bob MacGregor, forest properties director at the campus, said about 60% of the damaged road system has been repaired. The bridge to Arbutus Great Camp, Huntington Lodge and Huntington Wildlife Forest, where the college conducts research, has been replaced, McNulty said. The college is working with FEMA and the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, MacGregor said, to get reimbursement for the reconstruction.
“Happily, I am heading out now for the first field surveys of 2023 to record active beaver colonies,” McNulty added. Decades-long fieldwork was stalled for about three months due to the damage. “Each autumn since the 1950s, our staff and students have surveyed dozens of miles of stream and lakeshore; that comprehensive record will be invaluable to documenting immediate and long-term impacts from the flood on the aquatic systems now and in the future,” she said.