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Water level continues to rise, inundate homes in Black Lake


EDWARDSVILLE — Three of David L. Roll’s cabin units are sure to have water damage, but he suspects that number will grow to five or six by the time the flooding of Black Lake starts to recede.

Mr. Roll owns Black Lake Fisherman’s Landing and Black Lake Marine Cottages, both on County Route 6 in Edwardsville. The businesses have a total of 14 cabin units.

“The last few days the water level has just been going up and up,” he said. “The water rose today, I’m guessing, about three to four inches.”

Property owners and year-round residents battled rising flood waters all weekend by placing sandbags in their basements, moving things out of their houses or camps and stacking furniture and other household items on tables to escape the rising waters.

Many camps and homes in Edwardsville were surrounded by water as the lake continued to rise Monday. The water had even reached the shoulder of County Route 6 in some areas.

Some residents questioned whether Brookfield Renewable Energy, which operates the nearby Heuvelton Dam on the swollen Oswegatchie River, could have done more to prevent the extent of the flooding.

Shannon B.J. Ames, Brookfield’s director of community and stakeholder relations, said the company can’t control the flooding in Black Lake.

“Black Lake is located upstream on a tributary to the Oswegatchie River and joins the river in between two of Brookfield’s facilities, Eel Weir and Heuvelton,” she said in an emailed statement. “Both facilities are run-of-river with no storage ability, and, as such, Brookfield currently has no way to lower the level of Black Lake through the operation of either facility.”

Although Brookfield officials pay attention to flooding concerns and “manage their facilities appropriately,” they can’t minimize flooding, she said.

The state Department of Transportation announced Monday the closure of Route 58 at Route 184 in Pope Mills due to flooding. DOT officials said they expect it to remain closed through Wednesday, but are unsure of the duration.

Black Lake isn’t the only north country body of water at a high level this spring.

According to the U. S. Geological Survey website, the Oswegatchie River rose from a gage height of 5.5 feet to about 8.7 feet in three days last week. In Ogdensburg, the city on Thursday closed the Maple City Trail near the Algonquin Power Dam until further notice because it is underwater.

Stephen W. Litwhiler, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 6 office, Watertown, said that according to the USGS, the Oswegatchie River’s highest gage height dates back to April 1960, when it was 10.36 feet and had a discharge of 19,600 cubic feet per second.

According to the USGS, the Oswegatchie water levels have been decreasing slowly since Thursday. Ms. Ames said the river was flowing at 12,500 cubic feet per second near the Heuvelton dam and 19,000 cubic feet per second near Eel Weir Dam.

Mr. Roll said the conditions in Black Lake could get worse.

“We’re supposed to get more rain and cold temperatures,” he said. “All we can do is deal with the aftermath. Mother Nature’s got to run her course.”

Heuvelton resident Helen F. Smithers said she has seen the Oswegatchie River rise from the kitchen window of her home at 180 Wardell Road every spring since 1959. But she said this year’s flooding has been among the worst she’s ever seen. Behind her home, about 300 feet of a former hayfield is underwater and several campers used by summer residents are half-submerged. “It’s definitely something to see,” she said.

Johnson Newspapers staff writer Amanda Purcell contributed to this report.

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