January 15, 2014

DEC to dismantle Marcy Dam

ALBANY — A log dam that was a favorite photo and camping spot for generations of Adirondack hikers will be removed, as state officials say it would be too expensive to repair damage from 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene.

The Department of Environmental Conservation’s decision to dismantle and remove Marcy Dam was based on ecological as well as financial and safety concerns, agency spokesman Dave Winchell said Tuesday. Rebuilding the breached dam may have also conflicted with management principles for the High Peaks Wilderness Area, where the presence of man-made structures is minimized.

“The only reason to rebuild it would be for aesthetics,” he said. “It serves no practical or ecological purpose.”


The dam, which is a 2-mile hike from a busy trailhead near Lake Placid, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The pond behind it, drained since the storm, was a scenic gem that reflected surrounding peaks. Tens of thousands of backpackers pass by it annually en route to the state’s highest peak, Mount Marcy, and other popular destinations.

A wooden bridge across the dam was destroyed by Irene’s floodwaters and has been replaced by a new one across Marcy Brook downstream in a less flood-prone area. DEC considered repairing the breached dam to restore the pond, but state dam-safety regulations would have required bringing the structure into full compliance with modern standards, which would have cost several million dollars, Winchell said.

“The state of New York spends about $325,000 to $350,000 for all management in the eastern High Peaks, including forest ranger salaries,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, which owns the land where the trailhead is. 

“A dam that expensive didn’t seem to be a rational decision.”


Woodworth said the club, which hosts about 70,000 hikers a year at its trailhead facilities, hasn’t had a great deal of pressure from its members to replace Marcy Dam. He said that people are getting used to the new aesthetics and view at the spot, where Marcy Brook now meanders through a broad wetland ringed by mountains before pouring through a large notch in the log dam.

Winchell said the dam will be dismantled in stages over five years, starting in August. It will cost an estimated $50,000 for labor to haul away the treated lumber.

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