Village tries to balance river

SARANAC LAKE – A balancing act continues for this village, whose dam on Main Street is a pivot point between high water upstream and downstream on the Saranac River.

Overnight rain caused the river to rise an inch since Monday; it was flowing this morning at 13 inches over the spillway of the Lake Flower Dam, village Manager John Sweeney said at 8 a.m.

Upstream, Sweeney said he checked the state’s Second Pond boat launch on state Route 3 this morning and saw that the river was 3 to 4 inches over the dock.

Downstream, a village staff member checked the Moose Pond Road bridge in Bloomingdale this morning and saw that the river was “just getting onto the asphalt,” Sweeney said.

The heavy rain of the last month takes its toll differently on the Saranac River than on the AuSable. The AuSable is fed by mountain streams that can suddenly swell with rain and roar down from the High Peaks – as they did with Friday’s flash flooding in the towns of Keene and Jay – and then quickly revert to babbling brooks.

The Saranac, by contrast, has its source in dozens of ponds and lakes that feed the huge Saranac lakes. These accumulate large amounts of water and then, when they reach a tipping point, slowly, steadily spill their contents downstream.

One bottleneck to the floodwaters’ flow is the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Lower Lock above Oseetah Lake. The next is the village’s Lake Flower Dam. As the DEC opens the lock bit by bit to accommodate the rising river, the village tries to match that, but not so much that it floods points below, including parts of the village and riverside homes in Bloomingdale.

“We continue to monitor, with DEC, discharges from their Lower Lock dam, and we continue to match (cubic-feet-per-second) outputs without putting downstream under water,” Sweeney said this morning.

“We’ll see what happens next.”