Throughout the North Country, there are streams that have been used as power sources in the past. Logs were transported downstream in the early spring via the power of the moving water. This fluid power ran sawmills, grain grinding grist mills, and supplied hydraulic muscle to turn turbines for electric power. Water was used by many factories along the rivers for the manufacturing of various items like paper making. In the southern Adirondacks water was used in many of the tanning facilities like those in Amsterdam and Gloversville.
The streams were a tool to be used and little thought was given to protect fisheries. Numerous chemicals and other pollutants were dumped into the streams, many changed with the color of the chemical being used that day. The fish had to fend for themselves. They either went up clear water tributaries to survive or downstream to lakes if they could get there. If they didn’t make it, they were sushi for the birds and mammals along the shoreline.
Many of the old stone and wooden cribbed dams that were layed up in the early years of the Adirondacks are gone. Some still remain as dams for reservoirs for town water supplies, although surface water supplies are no longer allowed in New York, with the exception of New York City.
NYC gets their water from open reservoirs in the Catskills. New York City gets away with a lot of things that the rest of us have to deal with. I guess we know where the voting power is for New York, don’t we!
Many of the dams in the state are getting old, and becoming a threat to downstream residents. Repairs are expensive and engineering to ensure safety is costly, very costly now days. With the increases in high volume storm events like Hurricane Floyd, Irene and others, having a dam in a state of disrepair is a liability. No town can afford a lawsuit brought on by a dam that gives way.
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.