Ponds dewatered after dams breached
By Mike Lynch
On Saturday, the state announced that it had reopened Route 28N between Long Lake and Newcomb, the only road connecting the two communities. But state Department of Transportation crews are working on the road near Long Lake that suffered damage from the heavy rainstorms of July.
The road had been closed because high waters from Fishing Brook damaged a bridge about four-and-a-half miles east of Long Lake and six miles west of the town of Newcomb. That bridge couldn’t be repaired, so crews replaced it with a temporary span until a permanent bridge can be built.
Now that the road has reopened, travelers can see some of the changed landscape caused by the floods.
For instance, Shaw Pond, a shallow waterbody less than a half mile from the intersection of Route 30 in the hamlet of Long Lake, has been dewatered. Once home to abundant waterfowl that attracted birders, the pond is now a mudflat.
Long Lake guide and birder Joan Collins said she saw eight ring-necked duck chicks and Virginia rails on the nests the day before the floods.
“I suspect they all perished,” she said.
The pond dewatered after rising waters overcame downstream infrastructure, perhaps including a beaver dam, that had created the wetland. After leaving the pond, water washed out culverts and roads and temporarily cut off Long Lake’s access to its water filtration plant.
But Shaw Pond wasn’t the only water body that has changed significantly, as two manmade dams failed during the storms, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The DEC said it is assessing the Long Lake Park Dam (in Jennings Park off Route 30), owned by the town of Long Lake, and Fishing Brook Dam, owned by Upper Woodlands ATP, LP and about seven miles down the road but still within the town of Long Lake.
During the July 11 flooding a piece of earth flows through the location of the former dam at County Line Flow.
The department plans to work with the owners on possible repairs.
Long Lake Supervisor Clay Arsenault said the Jennings Park Pond dam didn’t fail but the causeway was damaged, which he said was built in 1934. DEC records show it’s an earthen dam.
As of early August, the pond appeared dewatered when viewed from Route 30, a few hundred feet from the corner of Route 28N, and the water level elsewhere appeared low.
Down the road about seven miles to the east of Shaw Pond, another earthen dam succumbed to the floods. High waters flowing down Fishing Brook washed away Fishing Brook Dam on the eastern edge of County Line Flow.
Unlike Shaw Pond, County Line Flow didn’t empty, but the pond is shallower than before the storm. The western end resembles more of a stream than a pond, and water has receded the banks. Dead and downed trees that were previously sunken now line the shorelines.
Video of the location of the former dam after the flooding.
County Line Flow is on conservation easement lands and accessible to the public for paddling.
Wayne Tripp is a manager for F&W Forestry Services, which manages the easement lands where the pond is located. He said a decision whether to rebuild the dam hasn’t been made and it may make sense to let the stream return to its natural state.
“Another event like that will probably put it back just a stream channel,” he said.
He did say that the heavy rains did more damage than either Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 or the Halloween Storm in 2019.
Tripp said he heard stories of up to 10 inches of rain falling in the area. However, the Newcomb Mesonet site recorded five-plus inches during the three-day period leading up to July 10. That was the most the weather station has recorded since starting in November 2016.
“In terms of what we had on the property, this was the worst,” Tripp said. “This was more water in a short period of time than we have seen.”
The dam and Upper Hudson Woodlands property were once part of Finch, Pruyn & Co until it sold the land to the Nature Conservancy, before it was sold to its current owners as part of the landmark deal that transferred 93,000 acres in 2009. Much of the land is in the Indian Lake, Long Lake, Newcomb area but there are some satellite properties elsewhere in the Adirondacks.
This video shows the changes to the western end of County Line Flow.
Tripp said about 50,000 acres fell within the storm’s path and roughly 100 miles of woods roads were impacted by intermittent damage to bridges, culverts and washouts. That resulted in roughly 100 hunting cabins becoming temporarily inaccessible, Tripp said.
Some of the infrastructure has been repaired, but not all of the damage has yet been discovered, he said.
That damage has caused obstacles to access for loggers trying to work the land and people with hunting cabin leases. Snowmobile trails connecting Central Adirondack communities have been severed.
One dam that had been rumored to have gone out during the flooding but actually didn’t was located on Fishing Brook, a few miles upstream from County Line Flow.
Tripp said spring flooding several years ago took out that dam and dewatered the pond behind it. That dam is located about 100 yards from the bridge that DOT is in the process of restoring. He said had that pond not been dewatered it would have taken out more downstream when it breached.
“I don’t even want to know what damage that would have done,” he said
This video shows Fishing Brook and an unnamed dam that breached several years ago during the spring.