Tom Luciano on the Starbuckville Dam

Tom Luciano, Chairman and Commissioner of the Schroon Lake Park District, was the guest speaker at ESSLA’s June member meeting.

He gave us a history of the dam, which is owned by the Schroon Lake Park District (SLPD) and controls the water level of the Schroon.  The taxing district was legislatively created and its board includes representatives from the towns of Chester, Horicon and Schroon. Approximately 2250 properties within 1500′ of the shoreline pay an annual assessment to support the SLPD.

The SLPD’s objectives are:

  • Keep water level at 806′ at the dam, one foot lower than the northern end of the lake
  • Avoid flooding situations upstream and downstream
  • Retain water level during drought

At an elevation of 806′, Schroon Lake is  9 miles long, 1.3 miles wide, with a surface area of 4000 acres.  The average depth is 56′ with a maximum of 152′. The lake completely refreshes its 73 billion gallons every five months. The watershed is a massive 202,575 acres (586 sq. mi.) with 84% forest.  The watershed extends to Dix Mtn (4875′). Rain events with runoff from the large watershed can cause a dramatic increase in lake level in just a few days.

Dam flow, spillway level, gate timing, controlling lake level:

Average flow over the 158′ spillway (elevation of 805.7′) is 690 cubic feet per second. When lake level at the dam exceeds 806.2′ the gates automatically adjust every 15 minutes. From October 15 to May 15 the gates are left open per a NYS fisheries rule and in anticipation of lowering lake level to accommodate spring snowmelt. The gates can also be manually adjusted to avoid flooding situations. A fish ladder was incorporated to allow upstream migration of trout and salmon.

When in automatic mode, the electric motors open and close the two gates. The system is complex, with gear reduction boxes, sensors, electric track heaters and a back-up generator for power outages.

Restrictions of Flow:

The first issue with maintaining lake level is the 60′ opening at the Glendale bridge. The old pilings that are still in the water restrict flow. Sedimentation is also filling in the outlet, starting at the 5 mph buoys north of the Horicon boat launch and extending down river. Sandbars and downed trees in the river also slow the water flow to the dam.

Tom closed his presentation warning that due to the effects of climate change, we’re seeing storms that are more ferocious and unpredictable, which makes it even more challenging to keep steady lake levels.  Because these storms and high water events are expected to be more frequent, Adirondack Park Agency (APA) urges homeowners to consider using only floating docks on the lake and river.

We thank you, Tom, for a very enlightening and interesting presentation. We appreciate everything you do as SLPD Commissioner to keep Schroon at an optimal 806′ elevation.

By Ev McNeil, ESSLA Board of Directors

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