Dam Maintenance 2018


Bartlett Carry Dam Maintenance

Most of us on Upper Saranac are aware that there is a dam at the lake outlet. Did you know that this structure is owned and operated by the Upper Saranac Foundation and maintains the lake water level approximately four feet higher than before the dam was built? Imagine your favorite spot along the shoreline with the water level four feet lower. 

For those readers interested in more detail on the dam, please read the ‘history of the dam’ at the bottom here.

In short, the dam was built in 1915, and there was major reconstruction by the USF in 1994. Since the reconstruction of the dam in 1994, little maintenance had been done until the summer of 2011. As part of New York State DEC mandated requirements for dam safety, the USF has assured compliance. The Foundation has hired a professional Engineer to oversee our ongoing dam related projects and assist us in preserving our Dam. We have also developed and implemented an Inspection and Maintenance Plan, have routine safety inspections conducted by the Lake Manager and a professional engineer, obtain an annual DEC certification, and most recently developed an Emergency Action Plan prepared by the Engineer. 

As part of our Maintenance Plan, for the purpose of emergency and general maintenance access, the USF completed refurbishment of the access road on the south side of the dam in the fall 2011. We have filled in the settlement of rip-rap along the abutments with approved blast rock and have completed some minor concrete repair caused from the high waters of the 2011 spring’s floods, general erosion and freeze thaw effects.

In 2012, major repair of the dam has once again been completed. The work repaired deterioration of two abutment walls of the north spillway. https://usfoundation.net/about-us/dam-maintenance-2012/.

In the Fall of 2016, Additional maintenance was completed, including filling and resurfacing joints of both abutments of the southern/secondary spillway, the crest of the secondary spillway and the crest/ southern abutment of the northern/primary spillway.

In the Spring of 2018, during a higher than usual water level event, a sink hole had established on North Embankment behind the cut-off wall. The USF for the first time enacted the Dam’s Emergency Action Plan, one day after the Village of Saranac Lake activated their Lake Flower, due to localized flooding. Appropriate notifications were made as outlined in the Emergency Notification flowchart. The Town of Harrietstown provided sand bags and the Saranac Lake Fire Department assisted in filling the sink hole and sealed the upstream embankment and wing wall of the dam with plastic sheathing and sandbags under the direction of the NYSDEC, Dam Safety Section.  

The USF contracted Blue Mountain Engineering to oversee the repairs of the dam. This work included reviewing and making an assessment of the development of the sinkhole. Multiple days of dye testing, test pits, soil probing and soil borings were completed prior to implementing a short term repair plan. This initial phase, Phase One also included surveying of the property, constructing of a coffer dam and repairing the wing wall of the north embankment. Results of the assessment were summarized in an Investigative Engineering Report by Blue Mountain Engineering. 

An Engineering Design Plan was developed outlining what repairs were needed.  The plan, Phase Two includes building a temporary access road, clearing the embankment, upgrading the existing coffer dam, including dewatering and stabilizing the area behind the existing coffer dam. The concrete cut-off wall and north wing-wall would be excavated and replaced. In addition, the downstream side of the cut-off wall will be excavated and fill removed and replaced with stone. The work site will be fully restored, including removal of the temporary coffer dam and access road. This work including engineering fees is estimated to exceed $300,000.

In preparation for the required work, a fundraising campaign led by the USF, and supported entirely by private USL shore owners, raised the needed funding. In addition, permits and authorization were obtained by the Town of Harrietstown, Corp of Army Engineers, The Adirondack Park Agency and the NYS DEC.

A contractor has been hired for Phase Two and work began in October and expected to conclude in December. Blue Mountain Engineering emphasizes that while this work will bring the north embankment up to required standards, there is still additional work pending in the near future, Phase 3.


See pictures below.

Learn about the history of the Bartlett Carry Dam: read more↪