TUPPER LAKE - Cracks in the Setting Pole Dam are going to have to be inspected to determine how bad they are and whether they were created by flooding this spring.
Town Supervisor Roger Amell said he believes the cracks are all surface cracks, which would likely be Class A, which is considered low hazard under state Environmental Conservation Law. If they were the next class up, he said, it would require immediate action.
Amell spoke recently with an engineer who is suggesting the town sell the dam. The purchaser would likely be someone who wants to buy it for energy-generating purposes.
A photo taken from a helicopter captures water flowing through Setting Pole Dam May 1 during the peak of spring flooding.
(Photo by the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department)
The engineer offered to inspect the dam for about $5,125, but town board members decided to wait and find out what Federal Emergency Management Agency officials plan to do. They would likely do their own inspection to determine when the cracks happened.
Amell said the town had the dam inspected in 2009, and there are pictures from then that show there were no cracks at the time.
"There was a lot of pressure on that dam" this spring, Amell said.
He said if the town doesn't sell the dam, it's going to have to put some money into it in the near future.
"If we're going to keep it, then we're going to have to do some repairs and stuff," Amell said. "I mean, it's not real critical right now, but down the road it's going to be."
The town owns the dam, but it's operated by National Grid, Amell said.
Each spring, he communicates with National Grid about the water levels. If he expects a lot of water is putting pressure on the dam, he lets the company know and it will open the dam to make sure there's not too much buildup. But they're talking about opening it even earlier next year in order to avoid what happened this spring.
Highway Superintendent Billy Dechene told Amell that FEMA officials said they would contact the town when they plan to come to town.
There was also some flood damage to the smaller Little Wolf Dam. The rods that lift the flood gates up and down, as well as the gates, were bent this spring. Amell said he hopes the town can get some FEMA funding to fix that as well.