Post-Irene repairs to Wilmington dam stalled

River will be low during tourist season

Members of the Wilmington town council.

Members of the Wilmington town council. Photo by Tim Follos.

— Wilmington’s town council discussed the Lake Everest dam; the pending purchase of the “town” t-ball field; a recently activated cell phone tower; a new employee at the town’s youth center and other topics at the board’s monthly meeting May 8.

There has been a dam in the center of this town since around 1800, when the AuSable River was first harnessed to power a series of mills. After the existing dam was destroyed by flooding in the 1930s, the current dam was built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Local businessman Frank Everest was among those who wanted to raise the river’s level to improve recreational opportunities and attract tourists.

The Town of Wilmington puts flashboards on top of the dam in the summer months to raise the river’s level between the flume falls and the dam.

Hurricane Irene damaged the dam significantly, Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston said at the May 8 meeting. Preston reported that the town has selected a contractor, RCL Construction, based in Peru, to repair the dam, but added that the weather has blocked work from starting.

Preston noted that significant reconstruction was done to the dam nearly a decade ago. He said that it functioned better before that work was done.

“They replaced the gate structure on the dam, and the structure they removed had a six-by-six and a four-by-four gate system, and we never had a problem lowering the level of the river to put the flashboards on in the spring, or take them off in the fall.”

“When that construction happened,” Preston said, “they put in a four-by-four gate, and I have a copy of the letter to the town board from the engineer that said it would not work in all applications. If there’s over five inches of water going over the dam, the gate isn’t big enough to work. It irritates me to no end that something like that happened.”

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