News & Bulletins
FLOOD PROTECTION DAM TURNS 90
Anniversary of Devastating 1913 Flood Marked as Conklingville Dam Reaches Major Milestone
HADLEY – On March 27, 1930, the gates of the Conklingville Dam were closed, and the Great Sacandaga Lake began to fill, marking the completion of this major flood protection project nearly 17 years to the day that a devastating flood impacted New York’s Capital Region, including the cities of Troy and Albany, causing a major infrastructure and public health emergency. Today, the Hudson River – Black River Regulating District continues to maintain and operate the Conklingville Dam, providing important flood protection benefits to area communities.
Known as the Great Flood of 1913, catastrophic flooding from the Midwest to the East Coast in late March, 1913 resulted in a staggering loss of life, making it the second-most deadly flood in U.S. history. Within weeks of the flood’s crest in Albany on March 28th, a typhoid epidemic caused by the contamination of Albany’s public water supply by flood waters started to sweep through the city. The impacts of this historic flood helped spur New York’s leaders to construct a major flood protection reservoir – known today as the Great Sacandaga Lake – by constructing the Conklingville Dam on the Sacandaga River in the Town of Hadley, Saratoga County. Since the dam’s completion on March, 27, 1930, the Great Sacandaga Lake – New York State’s largest reservoir – has been continuously providing important flood protection benefits to downstream communities for 90 years, primarily in the spring when rainfall and snowmelt typically combine to increase the risk of flooding.
“We are privileged to be carrying on the legacy of visionary New Yorkers who, nearly a century ago, undertook this important public work for the safety of residents in downstream communities like Fort Edward, Mechanicville, Troy, Waterford, Cohoes, Green Island, and Albany,” Mark Finkle, Chair of the Regulating District, said. “The Regulating District’s dedicated staff is committed to continuing to provide this protection through vigilance and sound water management for another 90 years and beyond.”
“The Conklingville Dam is a reminder of what is in our DNA as New Yorkers,” John Callaghan, Executive Director of the Regulating District, said. “We see a problem, we fix it. We need a dam for flood protection, we build it. And as faithful stewards of this critical flood protection infrastructure – we are committed to maintaining and operating it in the century ahead to help keep area residents safe.”
“The important storage the Great Sacandaga Lake provides thanks to the Conklingville Dam benefits downstream communities each and every year, lowering crests during flooding events by as much as several feet during severe flooding,” Robert Foltan, Chief Engineer of the Regulating District, said. “Just months ago, following the Halloween storm, the reservoir stored 4.16 billion cubic feet of water on November 1, preventing the Hudson River from reaching major flood stage from Hadley to Fort Edward, and preventing serious flooding-related impacts in other downstream communities.”
While the 1913 flood helped build support for flood protection measures, the idea of creating storage reservoirs to dam Hudson River tributaries for both flood protection – and to provide a reliable flow of water for mills during the drier summer months – was a concept that had been discussed for decades. But the 1913 flood set things in motion, and the State Legislature approved an amendment to the State’s constitution allowing up to 3 percent of the state forest land in the Adirondacks to be inundated for new flood control reservoirs. The voters approved the measure, known as the Burd Amendment, in the November 4 election that year, and the subsequent 1915 Machold Storage Act provided for the establishment of “river regulating districts.” The Hudson River Regulating District was formed in 1922 and construction of the Conklingville Dam, designed by the Regulating District’s first Chief Engineer Edward Haynes Sargent, began in 1927.
Today, the Great Sacandaga Lake provides significant economic benefits to Saratoga and Fulton County communities along its shores, and quality of life benefits to area residents. An access permit system allows adjacent properties owners recreational access to the 29-mile-long reservoir, which provides innumerable ecological benefits as well.
The construction of the Conklingville Dam and creation of the Great Sacandaga Lake remains one of the most ambitious and consequential public works project ever undertaken in the area. The story of its construction was told in the 2017 documentary film Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga, produced by the Great Sacandaga Advisory Council.
About the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District
The mission of the HRBRRD, a public benefit corporation of the state of New York, is to protect public health and safety by regulating the flow of waters in the upper Hudson River and the Black River. The Black River and Hudson River Regulating Districts were formed by the New York State Legislature in 1919 and 1922, respectively, to regulate water flows within those river basins and reduce flooding. The two districts were combined in 1959. As part of its mission, the HRBRRD maintains five reservoirs in upstate New York, including the Great Sacandaga Lake, New York State’s largest reservoir.
In response to social-distancing directives related to the COVID-19 virus, our Albany, Watertown and Mayfield offices are not open to walk-in visitation, but we are still here to help. Members of the public are encouraged to contact us through Facebook messenger, or the Albany office via email at HRAO@hrbrrd.ny.gov, the Watertown office via email at BRAO@hrbrrd.ny.gov, or the Mayfield office via email at SACFO@hrbrrd.ny.gov.
REMINDER TO GSL CUSTOMERS: Access Permit Renewals, Applications and Work Permits can still be mailed to the office at HRBRRD, 737 Bunker Hill Road, Mayfield, NY 12117.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation during this challenging time. Stay well. Stay at home. Stop the Spread.
For Immediate Release: 08/13/19
John Callaghan | firstname.lastname@example.org | (518) 912-3986
BLACK RIVER REGULATING DISTRICT TURNS 100
Water Regulation Body Incorporated August 14, 2019; First Board Meeting Held September 20, 1919
Regulating District Hosting Open House at Stillwater Reservoir on Saturday
WATERTOWN – The Hudson River – Black River Regulating District (HRBRRD) is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Black River Regulating District on August 14, 2019.
Following a petition for the Regulating District’s formation which was published on February 19, 1919, the Black River Regulating District was statutorily established in May, 1919, and officially incorporated 100 years ago today on August 14, 1919.
On September 6, 1919 Governor Alfred E. Smith appointed the first Board of the Black River Regulating District: J. Victor Baron, president of the Sherman Paper company, John Byron Taylor of Northern New York Utilities, and James A. Outterson of the De Grasse Paper company. The first meeting of the board was held on September 20, 1919 at Taggarts Paper Company in the City of Watertown, NY.
Formed to meet an urgent need on the Black River to improve drinking water, sanitation, regulate flooding, improve navigation, and maximize hydroelectric power capabilities, it was the first river regulating district to be created in the state under the provisions of the Machold Storage Act passed by the legislature in 1915. A second, the Hudson River Regulating District, was formed in 1922. The two boards were combined in 1959 by the New York State Legislature to create the HRBRRD.
“We are committed to continuing the important mission begun by our predecessors 100 years ago on behalf of New Yorkers,” Mark Finkle, Chair of the HRBRRD, said. “A century later, the flood protection and flow augmentation benefits which are inherent to the Regulating District’s operations in the Black River Area remain as important as ever.”
John Callaghan, Executive Director of the HRBRRD, said, “After a century of operations, we look forward to playing an integral role in supporting the production of clean, renewable hydroelectric power, providing flood protection and ecological benefits, and enhancing recreation along the Black River and its tributaries for the next 100 years.”
The HRBRRD will host an open house at its Stillwater Dam facility from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, August 17 to acquaint members of the public and visitors with its mission and operations. The HRBRRD Board will meet in Watertown on September 10, 2019 and will observe the 100th anniversary of the inaugural meeting.
The Black River Regulating District (BRRD) was the first regulating district in the state, having been established by the State Legislature in May, 1919 and incorporated on August 14, 1919. On September 6 of the same year Governor Alfred E. Smith appointed the first board, with the first board meeting held on September 20. Edwin S. Cullings was appointed Secretary to the Board and Chief Engineer on December 24, 1919.
After years of work surveying in the Black River watershed, the General Plan for the Regulation of the Flow of the Black River and Certain of its Tributaries was adopted by the BRRD Board on March 22, 1920, and approved by the Conservation Commission April 20, 1920.
The BRRD held public hearings on its first major project in 1921, the enlargement of the Stillwater Dam. In 1923 the contract was awarded to Scott Brothers of Rochester in the amount of $226,131, and construction began in 1924. The gates on the enlarged dam were closed on February 11, 1925, and were then opened for the first release of water on May 6, 1925.
In 1924 under the direction of Black River Regulating District Chief Engineer Edwin S. Cullings, work began on raising the existing dam on the Beaver River at Stillwater Reservoir by 19 feet, increasing the storage capacity from 9 million cubic feet to 4.5 billion cubic feet. Over 3,500 acres of land were cleared in the process, along with the relocation of approximately a mile and a half of railroad track. The Regulating District owns and operates several other dams in the Black River watershed, including Old Forge, Sixth Lake, and Hawkinsville.