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Clarkson University students to study feasibility of Weir dam


MASSENA - Students and faculty from Clarkson University will visit Massena next week to study the feasibility of reconstructing the failed weir on the Grasse River as part of the downtown revitalization effort.

Students and faculty in Clarkson University’s multi-disciplinary honors program will visit Massena at 1:30 p.m. May 8 to study the cost and environmental impact of a possible reconstruction of the Weir Dam. Mr. Hidy would like to see the weir repaired as part of the effort to revitalize downtown Massena.

He is interested in mending the dam to restore water levels, which could create boating, kayaking and other opportunities downtown and spur potential development.

“I think it’s vital to the revitalization of the downtown community that it be repaired for aesthetics purposes, as well as to increase water levels for recreational purposes, and for (the Grasse River) not being a dried up river-bed in the summer months,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Hidy could not provide an estimate for the cost or timetable of the work to repair the weir, should the project pass numerous hurdles and move forward.

However, in 2011, Clarkson University Professor Emeritus Norbert L. Ackermann, whose expertise is in water resources, evaluated the site and Mr. Hidy’s idea. He called $1 million in repairs a “conservative estimate” and said the project would require a firm specializing in dam repairs. The village would also have to address the changes in the ecosystem since the weir first breached 15 years ago.

Mr. Hidy feels the repair of the weir in Massena is “long overdue.” In spring 1997, a large tree floating down the river after a thaw broke a hole through the center of the structure, which has remained breached since.

“I think you would find many in the community who will find the repair of the weir long overdue,” Mr. Hidy said. “I can’t imagine why for this many years the riverbed was allowed to dry up.”

Mr. Hidy has suggested the weir repair was critical to efforts to revitalize Massena since he was a candidate for his seat on the village board.

The construction of the weir may come into conflict with an approximately $10 million project to restore local wildlife, as part of a multi-agency proposal to restore damage caused by decades of industrial pollutants.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration project proposal comes on the heels of a $19.4 million settlement New York state and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe reached last month with Alcoa and Reynolds for damages to natural resources, fishing, and Mohawk culture resulting from the release of industrial pollutants into the St. Lawrence River environment since at least the late 1950s.

That plan calls for the removal of 10 dams along the St. Lawrence, St. Regis, Racquette and Grasse rivers in order to increase mobility and improve habitats for local fisheries.

Mr. Hidy feels the reconstruction of the weir shouldn’t come into conflict with that project because the dam would incorporate fish ladders into its design. “They’re proven successful in allowing fish to navigate up and down river,” Mr. Hidy said.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal officials declined to comment on the proposals to reconstruct the dam.

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