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DANC offers $70,000 to assist Croghan dam rehab project

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CROGHAN — The Development Authority of the North Country has offered up to $70,000 to help advance the ongoing dam rehabilitation effort here.

“We see the hydroelectric generation as being a key economic development tool,” said James W. Wright, executive director of DANC.

The funding, approved Wednesday by DANC’s board of directors, is to serve as a local match to a $375,000 state grant given to the Lewis County Development Corp. in December as part of the Regional Economic Development Council awards.

“We wanted to be sure we secured that,” Mr. Wright said, adding that the project would continue “treading water” without it.

By granting the funds, DANC is entering a partnership with the Lewis County group with hopes that alternative technologies will make hydroelectric generation at the small, two-section dam feasible and ultimately revenue-producing, he said.

“From our standpoint, projects that we become involved in have to be self-sustaining,” Mr. Wright said.

“Having the Development Authority behind us should help us considerably,” said Glen A. Gagnier, a Lewis County Development Corp. member and former village mayor who is spearheading the dam project.

A meeting with DANC officials is planned for the first week of September to “really work on the direction we’re going to go,” Mr. Gagnier said.

Expertise from that agency and the Tug Hill Commission should help move along the project, expected to cost at least $1 million, he said.

Mr. Gagnier said he also is encouraged by recent interest shown by representatives from New England Hydropower Co., who have visited the site here a couple of times.

The Massachusetts-based company, which has partners in the United Kingdom and Holland, has been scouting nearly 100 sites in New York state for possible spots to install Archimedes screw-type hydroelectric generators, he said.

“Ours is one of the top ones, just because we’ve done so much prep work,” Mr. Gagnier said.

Officials are hopeful that an Archimedes screw may be a way to get a strong electrical output, despite the Beaver River dam’s relatively small size and flow.

“Screw generators extract the potential energy from large blocks of slowly downward moving water,” states the New England Hydropower website. “The mass of the water turns the tilted screw. The flow of that mass is controlled by hydraulically driven sluice gates. Water enters the screw at the top, and the significant weight of that water is lowered slowly down to a lower level of the waterway as the screw rotates.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation for several years had targeted the small concrete dam for demolition because of its designation as a high-risk hazard.

However, state officials last year lowered its risk classification, primarily because of preliminary results from a corporation-commissioned study by Gomez & Sullivan Engineers, Utica.

Corporation members have received a draft report from the $138,000 study, funded by $99,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and donations from local municipalities, businesses and individuals, but they still are awaiting a final report.

The dam, built in 1918 to replace earlier wooden ones, first was deemed unsafe by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1981. DEC in November 2010 commenced an enforcement action against the dam’s owners, which include the Croghan Island Mill, Vaughn E. Zehr and Beaverite Products Corp.

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