Massena dam: Try Again!
Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 3:40 pm

To the Editor:

When it was announced that there would be no new dam in Massena it came as no surprise to me.

When Ken McDonald was mayor of Massena, the town and village officials conducted a public meeting to gather support for efforts to restore the water levels that existed before the breach of the dam in downtown Massena. The majority of those in attendance were land owners upstream that wanted the prior water levels back.

Also in attendance was a man named Lyndon Lee. This man had a PhD in ecosystem restoration. He was bought into the meeting by Massena officials to hear of the concerns and advise to the legalities. Mr. Lee told those in attendance that it would be almost impossible to build a dam in a new location on the river under existing law, but that building on the original site would be allowed because that site would be grandfathered in by law.

Those in attendance were asked if they had any suggestions on how to re-establish the past water levels. I offered an idea that would consist of multiple structures that would only be 2 or 3 ft. high spread out between the old dam site and the Massena fire station. After hearing this suggestion Mr. Lee asked me what I thought this would accomplish. My thoughts were #1 using the theory of hydraulics, this would re-establish the historic water levels upstream. #2 Each waterfall would magnify the amount of oxygen mixed into the water, the increased oxygen levels would help purify the water of contaminants, and be beneficial to the ecology of the river for fish and other micro organisms. #3 It would re-create recreational activities upstream as well as new opportunities for kayaking in the riffle pools in between the dams, an easy portage for canoes, and for unrestricted fish passage.

Upon his assessment Mr. Lee stated that it was a widely accepted practice for raising upstream water levels and that this design had already been put in place in Alaska. Present law prohibits new site dam to be built using existing construction materials such as steel rebar and concrete, but allows for what is called a controlled log jam technique. That is not to suggest felling trees into the river as was done in colonial days. But to use natural materials such as large boulders and non-treated wood beams. Mr. Lee stated that this technique was the only accepted method for any new site un-grandfathered dam. If this practice would have been planned and followed through we may have had approval by now.

I hope Massena officials re-hire Mr. Lee and return to the objectives of those in attendance at the first meetings and focus re-establishing the the river to past water levels and not put the emphasis on it being an ice control as it did when Alcoa got involved.

Donald Lucas