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Owens views Saranac Lake flood damage

North Country Congressman Bill Owens was in Saranac Lake Thursday morning to view firsthand the damage caused by recent flooding.

Owens, the Democrat representing New York's 23rd Congressional District, is assessing the damage himself so he can provide testimony to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Officials hope President Barack Obama will declare northern New York a federal disaster area.

Saranac Lake Village Manager John Sweeney guided Owens on the tour. Sweeney says trustees will discuss hiring engineers to oversee repairs to public infrastructure during next week's regular board meeting.

"We will be shortly hiring engineers to come in, hopefully after Monday's meeting," he said. "Then will move forward with it. Really, that kind of what we're talking about - what kind of additional information do we need? We're still early in the process, we're going to continue to be in a flood situation at least until the rain lets up - we'll go from there."

So far, Sweeney estimates about $6 million in damage to village infrastructure.

"That's for public infrastructure and that is our best estimate based on the information we have," he said. "We're going to have the engineers come in and re-confirm."

For Owens, witnessing the flood damage across his district has been a harrowing experience.

"It's overwhelming," he said. "When you see what Mother Nature can do, it's incredible. The real concern, obviously, is the need for water levels to go down so we can see what the extent of the damage is. Given the way it's moving now, and given the rain we've had this week - and there's more rain predicted over the next several days - I think it's going to be a while before we get a sense of how much damage was actually done."

Along Duprey Street and Crossfield Avenue, Sweeney says flooding has damaged sewer infrastructure - but the extent of that damage won't be known until engineers take a closer look.

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