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Clarkson study says Massena weir replacement not feasible


POTSDAM — It is not feasible to replace the broken Grasse River weir in downtown Massena, according to a study by more than 40 Clarkson University students over two years.

“In case a weir wasn’t able to be built, we worked to have some alternatives,” said student Jacob Misch, who outlined the group’s work before a crowded room on the campus. Mr. Misch said the group aims to identify ways to beautify the community, attract people to Massena and aid in the community’s growth.

Given construction costs of $1.1 million and the need to build two access roads at $180,000 each, the group recommended against building a weir at this time.

Student Jim Elmer, who presented a cost analysis of the project, noted that regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation, would have to decide if a weir was “necessary and reasonable.”

“Their interpretation of necessary and reasonable may be different from yours,” Mr. Elmer said.

The group examined three types of weirs — fixed-height, V-notch and inflatable — before deciding that a fixed-height weir with piers would be best. The piers would extend about 3 feet from the structure’s top and help control ice.

Given the costs and environmental hurdles, Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said he understands the group’s findings. “It’s unfortunate that when it was just a door-sized breach, it wasn’t sealed at that time,” he said.

The first weir breach happened more than two decades ago. “Obviously with waiting that long to the current time, many things have transpired since then,” he said. “The hole is now probably 60 yards wide. The fish downstream have been able to swim up and down the river freely for years, which affects their spawning and has thus added environmental issues moving forward.”

The Clarkson group recommended building a natural playground plus walkways and bike trails, rather than a weir.

Student Nick Short said a playground likely could be designed for about $15,000, with the cost of material varying on the project’s scope. “Natural playgrounds tend to be very environmentally friendly,” he said, adding that unlike other playgrounds they could be used year-round, with the hills used for sledding during the winter.

Mr. Short said that besides attracting people to the village, a playground could spruce up the village’s waterfront. The recommended location for the playground is the East Orvis Street park.

Mr. Short said a trail would boost the local economy. Citing a tourism study along the Erie Canal, Mr. Short said tourists using the trails there spent on average $100 a day, not including lodging.

“By highlighting some of the village’s historical sites, it could draw tourism into Massena’s downtown,” he said.

Student Maureen Hoen said the group felt Massena would benefit from a business incubator. “We would hope to create a strong sense of community by grouping businesses together,” she said. “By partnering locally you would increase young entrepreneurship and encourage people to stay in the area.”

The group’s final suggestion was to build a fish hatchery. This could become a tourist attraction while increasing fishing opportunities.

“An aquaculture facility doesn’t have to be big right off the bat,” student Ryan Rauhut said. “It could start small and grow to become as big as you want it to be.”

Mr. Hidy said he would take the ideas presented by the study and discuss them with his board. “With this study we have been given some options to ponder,” he said.

Mr. Hidy was impressed by the study. “There’s no doubt in my mind each of you are going to succeed later in life,” he told the students.

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