FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 18, 2011
SCHUMER CALLS ON DEC TO SAVE CROGHAN’S HISTORIC DAM – URGES AGENCY TO WORK WITH LOCAL COMMUNITY & DEVELOP PERMANENT PLAN TO RESTORE DAM AND SAVE CROGHAN WATERFRONT HOMEOWNERS’ PROPERTY & HISTORIC SAW MILL
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is asking the State Department of Environmental Conservation to work with the local community and develop a comprehensive and permanent plan to save the Croghan Dam. Schumer has helped secure nearly $100,000 in federal funds to help Lewis County chart the best way forward to refurbish the dam that is essential to property values, fire safety, and powering the saw mill located on the river. The federal funding will enable the local community to determine exactly how the dam needs to be refurbished, but the state has yet to agree to fully commit to move forward with their plan for preservation and complete restoration, following the study. Instead, a lack of coordination at all levels of government has caused uncertainty for riverfront businesses and property owners who have watched water levels recede as logs have been removed from the dam. Rather than going any further with log removal projects that could put property values, fire safety, and power for the mill at risk, Schumer is urging the DEC to meet with local officials to chart a course for implementing the study’s recommendations as soon as possible in an effort to move quickly on applying for further preservation and rehabilitation funding streams. Schumer says the success of those efforts will rely heavily upon a strong local and DEC commitment to the project.
The Croghan Dam has been a vital resource for the people of Lewis County for over a century, providing mechanical hydropower to the historic Croghan Island Mill, acting as a primary source of fire protection, and protecting the land values and water supply of shore wells and farms upstream. The Croghan Island Mill historically had used water power to make custom doors, windows and other wooden items. However, 2010’s stop-log removal, coupled with a reduction in water releases from hydroelectric dams upriver, dropped the water level and caused bearings on the shaft of the company’s water wheel to break. Since then, the mill has done only limited work using a small electric motor, and the State Department of Environmental Conservation still reserves the right to remove more logs, causing more uncertainly for local business, the Mill and the Village. It was only when Schumer’s USDA funds made their way to Lewis County that plans to remove the remaining logs were halted.
Schumer noted that the $99,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for the Lewis County Development Corporation supports the community’s fight for a future where the dam is restored and the economy left intact. And because of this recent federal funding, Schumer is urging the State Department of Environmental Conservation to permanently halt any plans to further dismantle the Croghan Dam and work with the county and other local stakeholders to commit to a plan that once and for all rehabilitates it upon completion of the study.
Schumer was joined by Croghan Mayor Bruce Widrick, Lewis County Director of Economic Development Eric Virkler, Lewis County Chamber of Commerce representatives and President Anne Merrill, Lewis County Manager David Pendergast, Glen Gagnier of the Lewis County Development Corporation, and the Martin family, owners of the Croghan Island Mill, as he described the Croghan Dam as a vital resource for local residents and businesses in Lewis County. The dam functions as a primary source of water for fire protection, and creates riverfront property that boosts local land values and serves as a water supply of shore wells and farms upstream. The dam defends residents immediately downstream in the event of flooding caused by heavy rains and ice. Additionally, it supplies hydro-mechanical power to the Croghan Island Mill, a historic landmark in the community. If the Croghan Dam were to be dismantled the mill would have to turn to other, more costly forms of powering their business operations.
In addition to the detrimental impact that the removal of Croghan Dam would have on Lewis County, Schumer noted that a successful rehabilitation of the dam would have the potential to create a permanent renewable energy source in Lewis County. The development of Croghan Dam for hydro-electric generation would be a clean source of alternative energy, and Schumer noted that the potential of selling excess energy back to the grid would create yet another revenue stream for the County. Schumer noted that a successful completion of the Croghan Dam project would serve as a model for other communities in New York State wishing to refurbish their aging dams in order to stimulate economic development.
The Croghan Dam powers the Croghan Island Mill which is one of New York’s last water powered saw mills. Initially constructed in 1848, the current dam was finally completed in 1918. The Croghan Island Mill Lumber Company, has been added to the Register of Very Special Places by the Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, an organization that identifies cultural landmarks in the North Country. The mill is also on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
Dear Commissioner Martens:
I request that the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) work with Lewis County, New York and local stakeholders to develop a comprehensive and permanent plan to save the Croghan Dam. This historic structure is important to the people of Croghan and should be preserved.
The Croghan Dam was initially constructed in 1848 and the structure that’s there today was completed in 1918. For over a century, this dam has been a vital resource for the people of Lewis County providing mechanical hydropower to the historic Croghan Island Mill, acting as a primary source of fire protection, and protecting the land values and water supply of shore wells and farms upstream. I understand that DEC has deemed the dam to be physically deficient and work is required to update the structure. However, it is important that any changes made to the dam are done with the input of the community and take into account the economic impact on the surrounding areas.
Earlier this year, I helped to secure $99,000 to allow the Lewis County Development Corporation and impacted communities to begin a full design study which must precede rehabilitative work on the dam. The federal funding will enable the local community to determine exactly how the dam needs to be refurbished. In light of this recent funding award, I urge you to halt any efforts to further dismantle the dam and work with the county and other local stakeholders to develop a plan to rehabilitate the dam once that study has been completed. This rehabilitation is in the best interests of local residents and businesses and it is important that you put to rest uncertainties about its future and work collaboratively with the community to chart a course that will restore the dam.
Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact my Washington office at 202.224.6542 with any questions.
Charles E. Schumer