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Schumer calls on DEC to help save Croghan dam

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CROGHAN — U.S Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Thursday called on state Department of Environmental Conservation officials to help rehabilitate the small dam here, not breach it.

“Without the dam, the town will be left high and dry,” Mr. Schumer, D-N.Y., told dozens of area officials and residents during a stop at the Croghan Island Mill Lumber Co.

Citing long-standing safety concerns regarding a potential dam break, DEC officials last fall removed several stop-logs from the two-section dam on the Beaver River to decrease the water flow, then recently took out more logs. Local officials were able to convince DEC to leave some logs intact to gauge the impact on fire protection, but the state agency is still holding the option of pulling more logs and ultimately removing the dam.

“DEC must abandon its plans to lower water levels even further,” Mr. Schumer said.

The concrete dam, built in 1918 to replace earlier wooden ones, was first deemed unsafe by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1981.

“Three decades of efforts to refurbish the dam should be enough to tell the importance of the dam,” Mr. Schumer said.

The Lewis County Development Corp. recently commissioned Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, Utica, to conduct a $138,000 design study on the dam that they hope will curtail DEC plans to breach the dam and jump-start redevelopment. The study is being funded by $99,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that Mr. Schumer helped to procure, along with roughly $50,000 in local commitments.

Mr. Schumer commended the local fundraising effort. “You’re not just coming to Uncle Sam,” he said. “You’re helping yourself.”

DEC must now work with local dam supporters and “get on board” with any redevelopment plans recommended by the study, the senator said, noting he has written to the DEC commissioner about the Croghan dam and plans to discuss it with the governor.

“I’m here to tell the people of Croghan that I’ll work real hard to try to accomplish that,” he said.

Retaining the dam would ensure a good source of water for fire protection, maintain the value of properties upriver from the dam, offer potential for renewable energy development and allow the 150-year-old Croghan Island Mill to again utilize water power, Mr. Schumer said.

Last year’s stop-log removal, coupled with an annual New Year holiday reduction in water releases from hydroelectric dams upriver, dropped the water level lower than usual. That caused bearings on the shaft of the Croghan Island Mill’s water wheel to break after being exposed to the frigid air, and the mill has since done only limited work using a small electric motor.

Mr. Schumer mentioned that he has now made 13 or 14 trips to Lewis County and intends to keep up the annual visits. He also thanked voters in the predominately Republican county for supporting him in his re-election bid last fall.

Following his speech, Mr. Schumer toured the Croghan Island Mill, which has been named to the national and state registers of historic places and was recently added to Traditional Arts of Upstate New York’s register of very special places.

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