Morning Read: NY won’t replace famous Duck Hole dam in Adirondacks

One of tropical storm Irene’s biggest body blows was to trails and infrastructure in the High Peaks backcountry.  The storm blew out dams at Marcy Dam and Duck Hole.

No decision has been made yet about replacing the Marcy Dam structure, but DEC officials told the Adirondack Explorer on Wednesday that Duck Hole won’t be replaced.

This from Phil Brown’s Explorer blog:

DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said today that the department has no plans to repair the dam.

“At this time, DEC does not anticipate the repair or replacement of the Duck Hole dam in the High Peaks Wilderness Area,” she told the Explorer in an e-mail. “By leaving it as is, the affected backcountry in this area can return to a more natural state. This is in keeping with DEC’s responsibilities for care, custody and control of Forest Preserve lands under the state constitution.”

The department’s guidelines for dams in the Forest Preserve favor removing dams in Wilderness Areas “when they become unsafe or are otherwise in need of replacement, reconstruction and/or rehabilitation.” Nonetheless, such dams may be rehabilitated to preserve fish and wildlife habitat, protect scenic vistas, or maintain a waterway’s navigability, among other purposes.

Spokesmen for the environmental groups Adirondack Council and Adirondack Wild said they opposed rebuilding the dam.

“It’s deep in the wilderness,” remarked David Gibson of Adirondack Wild. “It’s just as much a wilderness experience after Irene as it was before Irene.”

So what do you think?  A good think to leave the spot in its wild state, as shaped by Irene?  Or is the loss of an iconic backcountry pond unacceptable?

Comments welcome.

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6 Comments on “Morning Read: NY won’t replace famous Duck Hole dam in Adirondacks”

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  1. Unfortunately, this is the right decision. If the dam were rebuilt to today’s safety standards, it would bear little resemblence to the former structure, and would be very expensive. Not to mention the logistical difficulties in getting the requisite heavy equipment and materials to the remote site.

    That being said, I wish I could better understand the way DEC prioritizes its backcountry projects.

  2. tootightmike says:

    Nature returning to nature. Perhaps a storyboard with before and after pictures would serve as a remembrance of the devastations of Irene, and the long term recovery of the former pond site might make for some interesting observations for the next 50 to 100 years.

  3. Jim Bullard says:

    I can’t comment on Duck Hole, having never been there, but I’d prefer to see Marcy dam repaired/replaced with the same sort of structure. The open space of the pond provides wonderful views of the surrounding mountains that would be lost if the area grows in as dense as the surrounding forest.

  4. Mervel says:

    I am torn. I really like the views at Marcy Dam as Jim commented above.

    But really that area is kind of overrun. Maybe not having the dam there will disperse people and campers from crowding in that area.

    Plus to fix a dam in a way that is safe you would have to bring in equipment, move dirt and tear up even more habitat in the process, and for what? I don’t think you could fix any of these dams in a low impact way.

  5. Tony Goodwin says:

    I agree with Keith Silliman that it is just not practical to rebuild the Duck Hole dam. When the DEC breached but did not repair the Flowed Lands dam there was much agonizing about the loss of that body of water. Now, people seem to have accepted the area as it is. I expect the same will happen with Duck Hole. As for Marcy Dam, the pond is nearly silted in even with the dam in place. Since I don’t expect that the DEC would raise the dam (and certainly not dredge the pond), there seems to be little reason to do much in the way of rebuilding since a few more floods and it won’t be much of a pond anymore anyway.

  6. Alan Gregory says:

    Leave the wrecked dam alone. Do not reconstruct it. Let nature have the upper hand.

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