DEC To Modify Dam For Spawning Salmon

Adirondack Almanack

January 13, 2015

Big changes are planned for the Imperial Dam on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh.

On Friday, the state Department of Conservation announced that it is taking comments on a plan to modify the dam, which is located a few miles upstream of Lake Champlain. The proposal calls for decreasing the height of the spillway by 8.5 feet and constructing a concrete fish ladder on the left bank, or northern side, of the dam, which the DEC owns. The other side is privately owned.

For years, anglers and conservationists have asked for the dam to be removed, or modified, because they said it serves no purpose and is a barrier for spawning salmon.

A fish ladder would allow landlocked salmon and trout to continue upstream past the dam for nine miles. This would provide a significant increase in spawning habitat for these species. The ladder would be designed to prevent lamprey from moving upstream.

In addition to adding the fish ladder, the proposed project intends to increase the dam’s spillway capacity and bring it into compliance with dam safety regulations. The lowered spillway would achieve the required spillway capacity of 45,650 cubic feet per second.

The plan involves dredging 91,600 cubic yards of material behind the dam to prevent those sediments from being washed downstream and into Lake Champlain. Dredging would create a 200-foot wide channel following the existing river channel approximately 3,800 feet upstream from the face of the dam.

This section of the river is also used by paddlers. It is part of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail that goes from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. Paddlers use the left side of the dam as a portage, which is in need of improvements.

For those who want to learn more about the project, the DEC is scheduled to have a public information meeting on the subject at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, January 21 at the Plattsburgh Town Hall, located at 151 Banker Road.

Staff from DEC and its consulting firm will present information on the preliminary plan for the dam and the process for moving the project forward.

DEC staff will also answer questions and accept comments from the public about improvements that can be made to the plan and site, in general.

The meeting facility is wheelchair accessible. To request specific accommodations in advance contact the DEC at 518-897-1248.

Comments may be mailed to DEC Regional Fishery Manager Lance Durfey, P.O. Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12977; or e-mailed to Comments should be submitted by COB Friday, February 6, 2015.

Article and Photo by Mike Lynch of Adirondack Almanac.