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Clarkson students study pros, cons of Massena’s weir repair

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MASSENA — Clarkson University officials say students in the college’s honors program will create several detailed proposals for how to repair the failed weir on the Grasse River.

Jon D. Goss, director of the honors programs at Clarkson, said the roughly 40 students in the program will spend next fall and spring semesters studying the broken weir, identifying the pros and cons of different strategies toward repairing it, and looking for repair options that would satisfy both economic and ecological concerns.

Mr. Goss said that while Massena Mayor James F. Hidy would like the weir repaired as a way to increase water levels and improve recreation on the river — potentially drawing more tourists to the region — the state Department of Environmental Conservation is concerned that reconstruction of the weir would negatively affect species in the river.

“I would imagine there would be a number of scenarios (to reconstruct the weir), and certain benefits with each scenario will come up,” Mr. Goss said. “I think that’s our bigger question here: How do we balance an economic and environmental solution to the problem?”

Mr. Hidy would like to see the weir repaired as part of the effort to revitalize downtown Massena. He is interested in mending the dam to restore water levels, which could create boating, kayaking and other opportunities downtown and spur development.

“I think it’s vital to the revitalization of the downtown community that it be repaired for aesthetics purposes, as well as to increase water levels for recreational purposes, and for (the Grasse River) not being a dried-up riverbed in the summer months,” Mr. Hidy said.

However, Mr. Goss said DEC previously was reluctant to allow the Massena Electric Department to build a dam in the Grasse River because of concerns that it would negatively affect river wildlife. Mr. Goss said he believes DEC officials are concerned about at least one endangered species of fish, the maintenance of fish habitats and keeping an open pathway for the migration of fish.

“I know some people feel strongly that the dam should be rebuilt, and there are other people — primarily in the DEC — who feel strongly that it should not be rebuilt,” Mr. Goss said.

A group of Clarkson faculty members will visit the weir site next week to develop a program for the students in the honors program, who span a range of engineering, environmental, economic and social-related majors.

Students in the honors program will do background research over the summer, Mr. Goss said, and begin doing fieldwork at the start of next fall’s semester. By the end of the fall semester in December, those students will have prepared an interim report to “give the community and stakeholders an idea of what we’re doing,” Mr. Goss said.

“They’ll really get into the design and implementation process by next spring,” he said.

Mr. Hidy extended thanks to Clarkson students, faculty and administration for their support.

“This will be done through the generosity of Tony Collins,” Clarkson University president; “he’s been a great friend and supporter of Massena,” Mr. Hidy said.

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