SARANAC LAKE - The water levels in Lake Flower and the Saranac River remain high and the state of emergency has been extended, but there were some signs this morning that life in this village - disrupted by flooding that began almost 10 days ago - was starting to get back to normal.
Following inspections by Franklin County engineers, the Main Street bridge at the Lake Flower dam and the Dorsey Street bridge were declared safe for vehicle traffic late Thursday, allowing the village to reopen the section of Main Street between River Street and Kiwassa Road, and all of Dorsey Street.
"That's a step in the right direction," village Manager John Sweeney said this morning.
The Main Street bridge at the Lake Flower dam, seen here this morning, was reopened to vehicle traffic Thursday. It had been closed since April 27, when the water level in Lake Flower rose and hit the bottom of the bridge.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Both roads had been closed since April 27 when the water levels in the lake and river, fueled by a surge of rain and snowmelt coming down from the Saranac chain of lakes, rose to the point where water was hitting the two bridges.
In another good sign, Sweeney reported that the water level at the Lake Flower dam dropped 3 inches overnight, from 27 inches over the spillway to 24 inches. Before that, the water had gone up about 4 inches from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon due to recent heavy rain and the release of water upstream by the state Department of Environmental Conserv-ation, prompting the village to extend the state of emergency for another five days.
Although the water level of the lake has now dropped, Sweeney said DEC continues to send more water down from the lower locks.
"From what I've been told this morning, Lower Saranac Lake really has not gone down so there's still a lot of water up there that we've got to deal with," he said. "We're putting out about 1,760 cubic feet per second of water (at the Lake Flower dam), which is about what the river can handle right now. We'll continue to hold that to try to reduce the water in Lake Flower."
Meanwhile, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in the village Thursday to inspect public infrastructure damage - $5 million worth, village and county officials estimate - caused by the flooding.
Sweeney said he provided FEMA officials with a "very preliminary" assessment of damage to the sewer plant, the peninsula behind the Water Department building, retaining walls, the River Walk and other village infrastructure.
"It was a very informal process," Sweeney said. "We went through our numbers with them. Their comment was it's hard to tell the extent of the damage because so much is still under water right now. There's going to be more damage, we just don't know."
Sweeney said the FEMA representatives he met with were only looking at damage to public infrastructure to determine if the village would be eligible for federal disaster aid. An "Individual Assistance" team from FEMA that's assessing flood damage to privately owned properties was in Tupper Lake Thursday and may be in Saranac Lake today, Sweeney said.
"I think what they're going to do is just come in and do a cursory review of who has been affected, where they are and take a quick look around before they come back and get organized," he said.