Saranac River closer to spilling point

SARANAC LAKE – Water levels in Lake Flower and the Saranac River spiked Wednesday after the state and the village released more water from their respective dams, triggering some localized flooding.

Meanwhile, the area was hit with more rain on Wednesday, continuing a late spring and early summer drenching that’s impacted everything from local businesses to people’s gardens.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation opened the floodgates of its dam at the Saranac River’s Lower Locks about 6 more inches late Wednesday morning, and the village followed suit at the Lake Flower dam. Reverse 911 calls were made to shoreline property owners in advance of the release of water, and Saranac Lake firefighters also went door to door notifying people of the potential for localized flooding.

As of Wednesday evening, village Manager John Sweeney said Lake Flower had risen slightly, and he was aware of one basement that was flooded downtown.

“So far, other than that, we’re kind of in a holding pattern,” Sweeney said. “We’ll see how things go in the next 24 hours.”

The North Country Chapter of the American Red Cross announced Wednesday that it is ready to help in Saranac Lake if needed.

“We have volunteers on standby to help with food and water, and to find places for people to shelter if their homes are affected,” Executive Director Lynn Gilbert said in a press release.

Downstream from the village, the surge of water caused the river to flood a section of Moose Pond Road in Bloomingdale, according to Ed Kanze, who lives near the bridge where the road crosses the river. His family’s house is on the far side of the river and could be cut off from town if the river rises higher.

“We and the neighbors are putting cars on the other side,” Kanze told the Enterprise around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. “The road has officially been closed, but people are still driving it. It’s flooded in two spots. It’s not terribly deep, maybe 4 inches at the deepest, but we’re expecting it to rise. It was just pounding down rain here again.”

Kanze said it’s not as bad as the flooding in the spring of 2011, when he and other property owners had to use boats to get to and from their homes for a two-week period.

“I’m hoping it’s not going to get quite that bad,” Kanze said. “Everybody’s safe and sound out here. That’s the good thing.”

In the village, Coin Wash Plaza owner Bill Rich was eyeing the swollen river, which runs alongside his parking lot and shopping center, near Munn’s Office Equipment.

“We got about 6 inches to play with, maybe 8,” Rich said. “We’ll see what happens. After that, the Munns will start taking water. I don’t think we’ll get to where we were a couple springs ago, but we’ll see.

“It seems kind of silly to save a couple people from flooding up on the lake or having their docks submerged,” Rich added. “They can’t use their docks, so they’re crying about that, so we’ll flood out the other part of town down here to save those folks. But I guess it’s a catch-22.”

Jon Fust of Swiss Marine said the high water hadn’t flooded his business because the marina has floating docks.

“We went floating years ago,” Fust said. “The village and the state could never get together and regulate the dam, and we were flooded so many times that we went all floating. It doesn’t affect us at all.”

But Fust is still concerned about all the rain.

“It certainly isn’t good for business,” he said. “If this keeps up, ain’t nobody going to be doing any good. The golf courses are going to take a hit. Anything to do with any outdoor activity is not going to do well.”

The fact that the water levels are so high this far into summer is remarkable, Kanze said.

“I mean, July?” Kanze said. “The river should be low.”

“This is just unbelievable, the whole weather pattern,” Rich said. “I made a little joke this morning to one of the people I work with here. I said, ‘Yeah, I was walking by our garden and I saw a broccoli plant giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the brussel sprouts.’ I’m kind of worried because you plant all this stuff, and if it keeps all soaking like this all the time, it’s going to get mold and rot.”

If there’s any silver lining to the flooding problems of late, Kanze said it’s improved communication about when the water levels will rise.

“There had never in the past really been any communication if the village lets out water,” Kanze said. “We never get any word here. We can get cars stranded, and it can be quite the nuisance. Everybody seems to be working well together this year to stay in touch on the whole thing.”

Staff Writer Jessica Collier contributed to this report.