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County Legislators, Town Supervisors pen letter to Brookfield concerning damming along Raquette River

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NORFOLK - Damming conditions along the Racquette and St. Regis rivers have prompted a collaborative letter from three St. Lawrence County legislators and a trio of town supervisors calling for Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners to investigate the matter.

St. Lawrence County legislators Jason A. Clark, D-Norfolk, Tony Arquiett, D-Brasher Falls, and Jim A. Bunstone, D-Potsdam, joined town supervisors Charles A. Pernice, Norfolk, M. James Dawson, Brasher, and Marie C. Regan, Potsdam, in constructing the letter to the power facility.

According to a news release issued by Mr. Clark, the large snow and ice accumulation “have created damming along the Racquette that pose threats to private property and public infrastructure.”

The elected officials hope that Brookfield heeds their call for action and adjusts their regional flow control policies in order to accommodate the unusual nature of this year’s winter season.

“We are asking to establish a meeting, and I am optimistic that we can work something out. We just want to make sure we don’t have a repeat from three years ago or what happened at the Wanakena footbridge as well,” Mr. Clark said. “Brookfield has always been receptive to community needs. We just want to make sure that the goals and objectives of Brookfield are consistent with those of our communities. Between corporate objectives and community objectives, we want to make sure there is no gap there.”

Three years ago, conditions along the river caused flooding in Colton and Potsdam and threatened bridges in Norfolk and Brasher Falls. On Jan. 14, the Wanakena footbridge was mangled by slabs of drifting ice and eventually was completely destroyed.

Chunks of ice damaged the bridge’s foundation and twisted it, causing the 1902 structure’s demise. The bridge was built that year by the Rich Lumber Co., one-time operators of a timber tract and large sawmill.

The bridge connects the middle of the hamlet with South Shore Road and was first used by the company’s workers to get from their homes to the mill. The walking bridge joined the state and national registers of historic places in 1999.

Mr. Clark added that the Dec. 21 ice storm, which struck much of the north country, was the main factor that led to the writing of the letter.

“We started talking about this in January, immediately after the ice storm. Then the Wanakena Bridge was taken out,” he said. “The next day, I was driving out to see Charlie (Pernice) and the drop in the water and the ice under the bridge was enormous. Pretty much ever since then the water has been creeping up.”

The officials are aiming to meet with the company’s regional management team in the coming weeks to determine an “action plan that is consistent with Brookfield’s needs and the needs of the residents of Norfolk, Potsdam and Brasher.”

According to the letter, sent to Brookfield’s local supervisor John B. Gamble, the damming issues have had a great impact on all of the involved areas.

No meeting between the two groups has been set up yet and attempts at reaching a representative from Brookfield Monday were unsuccessful.

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