Village eyeing Saranac River water level

SARANAC LAKE – Village officials say it’s too soon to know whether the long, cold winter could create flooding problems on Lake Flower and the Saranac River system.

However, they say they’re keeping a close watch on water levels in both water bodies.

Village Manager John Sweeney said Friday that Franklin County Emergency Services Director Ricky Provost was recently contacted by a few Lake Flower property owners who were concerned that the lake level is too high and should be brought down in anticipation of the spring snow and ice melt. The village controls the water level in the lake through the Lake Flower dam.

At the time he got that feedback, Sweeney said, the water was roughly an inch over the dam’s spillway. He said village officials don’t want the water level to get too low because there needs to be enough flow to carry the lake’s ice over the dam when it breaks up.

“We don’t want the ice to stack up behind the dam,” the manager said. “Having 3 to 6 inches over (the dam’s) spillway would be optimum for us to get rid of the ice.”

Sweeney said the village has been in communication with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which controls the amount of water that gets into Lake Flower, Oseetah Lake and Kiwassa Lake via the Lower Locks on the Saranac River.

“We’ve asked DEC if they can release extra water now so we can get some of this stuff moving,” Sweeney said. “Unfortunately we’re all at Mother Nature’s whim. If she says it’s going to melt, it’s going to melt.”

Sweeney said he’s not as concerned about the potential for flooding this year, in part because there hasn’t been as much snow this winter. He said there was much more snow during the winter of 2010-11, which contributed to severe flooding that spring.

“There’s probably a 3-foot snowpack in the woods,” Sweeney said Friday. “That may change in the next couple of days. Going back to April 2011, we saw that coming. We tried to drain it as much as we could. We were at zero (inches over the spillway), but the lake was also open and the ice buildup had already been removed. This year is a little different because we’re further into the year and we still have the ice.”

Sweeney said he’s heard the ice on Lower Saranac Lake and other bodies of water above the Lower Locks could be at least 2 feet thick.

“It all depends on how quick it melts,” he said. “Is there potential (for flooding)? There’s always potential. We’ve been looking at this for a month and seeing what we can do.”