Press-Republican

January 30, 2013

Owens to press for Salmon River dredging

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Congressman Bill Owens toured the flood damage on Lower Park Street Tuesday and vowed to see that the Salmon River is dredged.

About a dozen homes were evacuated a week ago when a 4,000-foot ice jam on the Salmon River caused it to overflow, leaving at least 3 to 4 feet of water in several basements.

BIGGEST SPREAD

The ice jam starts at 181 Lower Park, and the river is flowing down the middle of the street from 305 Lower Park to 377 Lower Park toward Brand Road.

Franklin County Emergency Services officials said this is the farthest south an ice jam has formed on the river, which means homes typically spared from problems during the annual January thaw are having issues with their septic systems and water wells because of the flooding.

Officials are also worried that free-floating debris in the swift current could cause damage and interrupt cleanup efforts once the ice starts to melt.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Owens (D-Plattsburgh) met with town and county officials Tuesday who gave him an overview of the problems. They shared before-and-after pictures of the river that showed the flooded homes and the river’s characteristics before much of it became clogged with sandy shoals.

The release of several tons of sediment from the Chasm Falls dam in 1997 is to blame for the shallow water in the 300 block of Lower Park Street, making it a chronic flood zone.

The Salmon River was 26 feet deep in the early 1990s, but that has been reduced to just 6 inches in many spots along Lower Park Street, and large shoals have formed.

Niagara Mohawk, which is now known as National Grid, paid a fine to the State Department of Environmental Conservation for the 1997 release but did not clean it up.

Flooding has occurred nearly every year since the release, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told Malone officials the town is responsible for the cleanup, which could cost $2.5 million.

That’s money the town says it doesn’t have, and it continues to ask the state and federal government for help.

‘SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM’

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) had both visited the site, and Owens was in town to see the situation for himself.

“Clearly, this is a significant problem, and we’re going to get the DEC and Army Corps in gear to get that dredged,” he said. “Apparently, that’s what the problem is.

“I will work with Betty and Janet, and we’ll put pressure on them to get this accomplished.”

Malone Town Supervisor Howard Maneely said he is confident Owens can help.

“He told me he’s going to be in touch with the Army Corps of Engineers, and I have no doubt we’ll see some movement after this,” he said.

“He’s been very responsive to us and very good to us.”

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@presrepublican.com