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Saranac River surges; village may close bridge over Lake Flower dam

April 27, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - Heavy rains pushed the already-high waters of Lake Flower and the Saranac River in the village back up again overnight, causing flooding in some areas and leading the village to consider closing the Main Street bridge over the Lake Flower dam.

The water level of the lake, which had dropped slightly over the weekend, was back up again this morning. At the Lake Flower dam, the water was an inch or less below the Main Street bridge. In nearby Riverside Park, the lake had reached the top of, and in some places was spilling over, the concrete embankments around the park.

Just downstream from the dam, the high water in the Saranac River left sections of the River Walk under several inches of water. Clyde Baker, co-owner of nearby Rice Furniture, said part of the Dorsey Street parking lot was flooded.

Article Photos

Jim Minnie paddles his canoe in the flooded parking lot of a Woodruff Street, Saranac Lake shopping center where he owns a business, Onsite Computer Service. The Saranac River runs beside the stores at right.
(Photo — Bill Rich)

"I've never seen the water up this high," Baker said. "I've been here for 18 years."

Still, Baker said he wasn't worried.

"As long as the dam doesn't give way, we're fine," he said with a laugh.

Further downstream, the river had climbed over an embankment next to Bill Rich's shopping plaza on Woodruff Street and was spilling into the plaza's parking lot.

Village Manager John Sweeney said the floodgates at the dam were open 54 inches and may have to be opened wider.

"We're trying to make sure this bridge is safe," he said. "Right now the water isn't touching it, but it's only an inch away. We did a quick tour through the village. It seems like from Duprey Street down there's a lot of water."

Sweeney admits he's worried about the prospect of the additional rain that's in the forecast over the next 48 hours. He asked officials from Franklin County Emergency Services to come to the village today to inspect the dam and the road above it. There is a chance the bridge could close today, Sweeney said.

"We're going to look at the bridge and determine what we're going to do here," Sweeney said. "I don't think anything is urgent right now, but we're taking precautionary steps."

Village officials have also been talking with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which operates two dams farther up the Saranac River.

DEC spokesman David Winchell said the department is considering lowering the sluice gates at the lower locks on the Saranac River above Oseetah Lake to reduce flooding upstream at First and Second ponds. The village is aware of these potential releases, Winchell said.

"It's going to be a coordinated effort," Winchell said.

The locks between Lower and Middle Saranac lakes are inoperable because of debris that has washed up against them. The DEC will work to remove the debris next week.

In general, many state boat launches are underwater, including the Crusher on the Raquette River just outside Tupper Lake and the Lake Flower launch in Saranac Lake.

"Water levels are making them treacherous to use and launch," Winchell said.


Enterprise Outdoors Writer Mike Lynch contributed to this report.



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