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In 1969, Citizens Saved the Upper Hudson from Destruction –

Fifty springs ago, the Upper Hudson River was conserved as a wild, free flowing river. The Schenectady Gazette’s writer Pete Jacobs reported the information in the April 17, 1969 edition of that newspaper:

“Without opposition, the Assembly gave swift approval to legislation prohibiting the construction of the Gooley Dam on the Upper Hudson River, branded by conservationists as a threat to the wild river country.”

In addition to Gooley, the bill blocks development of any reservoirs on the river from Luzerne to its source in the Adirondack Park.

The estimated $57 million dam was proposed as a supply of water supply for the long-range wants of New York City and different communities along the lower river.

Handed 121 to 0, the bill goes to the governor for his signature. Conservation-oriented groups including the Adirondack Hudson River Affiliation, led by President Paul Schaefer of Schenectady, have been prime opponents of the dam.

They claimed the reservoir would destroy a 25-mile stretch of the river, along with forests and lakes of the State Forest Preserve in the coronary heart of the Adirondack Park.

In a quick assertion after the vote, Schaefer stated there had been a ‘mandate’ by the individuals to protect the wild country and he lauded the legislature’s action. Schaefer had urged adoption of the measure to Meeting Speaker Perry R. Duryea, Jr. in addition to different legislators….

The state water assets fee had endorsed the dam, saying floor water is the greatest supply for New  York City and that the Gooley dam challenge had the biggest potential storage.

There was nearly no opposition at hearings on the legislation when Schaefer and others noted the Hamlet of Newcomb can be all however wiped out.

Senator Walter B. Langley, R-Albany and Schoharie Counties was co-sponsor of the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Bernard C. Smith, R-Northport, and Assemblyman Clarence Lane, Windham, conservation committee chairmen.”

The very notion of damming the Upper Hudson River could be seen now as an entire non-starter, but that was not at all the case 50 years ago.  The first Earth Day was nonetheless in the future and New York had not handed its model of the national Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System (that had to wait till 1972).

While their heyday was past, massive dams have been nonetheless being deliberate and in development throughout the country. Throughout the extreme drought of the early to mid-1960s, New  York Metropolis officers thought-about the city’s water provide in crisis. Having already closely exploited and dammed the Catskill Mountains in the 1920s, these officials –  City, State, plus the US Army Corps of Engineers – turned to the Adirondacks for their salvation. Numerous research pointed to this as a solution. One commentator at the time, president of the Association for the Safety of the Adirondacks Arthur M. Crocker, noted that:

“The staff of the New York State Water Resources Commission completed a state-wide survey and a team of engineering firms, commissioned by the NYS Department of Health on behalf of New  York City and Westchester County, also issued a report. The two reports point to the Hudson River estuary as the logical and most economical source of water for the New York Metropolitan area; both point to the necessity to hold back the salt-front in the estuary to permit substantial withdrawals above Poughkeepsie during low-flow periods; both recommend dams on the Upper Hudson for low-flow augmentation, pointing to Gooley No. 1 as the most cost-effective dam for the purpose.”

Gooley # 1 dam was proposed slightly below the confluence of the Hudson and Indian Rivers, simply above Blue Ledges.  As said by Arthur Crocker, the dam’s function was, throughout the drought, to reinforce recent water flowing into the Hudson River estuary and to push the salt-front under the Metropolis’s intakes.

Paul Schaefer, president of the Adirondack Hudson River Association, put the query this manner:

“Because some municipalities pollute our rivers and streams, because some refuse to meter existing water supplies, because some allow the waste of water from antiquated and broken water mains and laterals, shall the people, as a whole, be forced to sacrifice lovely wilderness valleys and villages like Newcomb, which will be under fifty feet of water should this proposed Gooley dam be built?”

Schaefer went on:

“Are we willing to lose the best trout waters remaining in our state, excellent big-game hunting country, and some of our very best winter yarding grounds for deer? Shall we replace the challenging five hour white water canoe adventures through country federal officials have described as the ‘most spectacular river scenery in the East’ with boating on a wildly fluctuating millpond? Shall we drown out miles of fine hiking trails and wilderness campsites, replacing them with a cemetery of stumps and dreary mud flats?”

“We need to take a stand on the Upper Hudson, a stand that knows no compromise, a stand that will accept no halfway effort, nor be satisfied with any engineering study less than one needed to permanently preserve the  Hudson from destruction….We need the support of all who value the wild-forest character of the Adirondacks”

Just like the Moose River (South Branch) dam wars of 1945-55, New York State officials have been either supportive of damming the Upper Hudson, or closely compromised. Most compromised of all was the Commissioner of Conservation (DEC had not but been organized) Stewart Kilbourne. Arthur Crocker wrote in 1968 of the Commissioner that he “wears two hats in this controversy. In addition to his role as administrator of the Forest Preserve, he is Chairman of the NYS Water Resources Commission” which had commissioned the studies and was in favor of the dam.

In 1968, Commissioner Kilbourne wrote:

“Thus, the most recent investigations, designed to meet the projected water needs of an area now populated by some 11 million people…point clearly to the Adirondacks as the best source of water for eastern New York State. It is a source that will be needed desperately for water supply in the near future to insure economic growth and social well-being of future generations” (from the 1968 annual report of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks).

Clearly, with out the efforts of Schaefer, his Adirondack Hudson River Affiliation, and its many allies residing in towns like Newcomb, Lengthy Lake, Indian Lake, Luzerne, Warrensburg, North Creek and Lake George, the possibilities that Gooley #1 Dam can be built have been considerably elevated, despite the monetary prices concerned (estimated at roughly $60 million at the time) and the undeniable fact that the NYS Structure may require an modification to construct it. Some state officials fiercely disputed that it will must be amended and feared the required public referendum. They merely needed to behave administratively. Keep in mind that Governor Nelson Rockefeller was a builder of massive issues. For example, the St. Lawrence Seaway definitely bears his mark, and Gooley dam may need, have been it not for upstate and Adirondack residents prepared to defend the river.

Gooley dam would have flooded 35 miles of the Upper Hudson, 16,000 acres, including the Essex Chain of Lakes, Lake Harris and the town of Newcomb, including Wealthy Lake and the website of at the moment’s visitor interpretive middle. The large reservoir would have fluctuated 50-60 ft commonly, leaving giant areas of mudflat. Paul Schaefer wrote eloquently in the late 60s about Gooley’s impacts figuring out that the impetus for constructing it came not solely from the Governor’s officials like Kilbourne, from New York City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE surveys of the dam website have been underway in 1968), however from recreational motor boaters who favored an enormous lake on the Hudson, in addition to nuclear proponents who needed more cooling water for nuclear power crops.

Many atypical residents joined Schaefer on this profitable struggle and did extraordinary things. One was Schenectady County’s Ned Bigelow who wrote a detailed research of how New York City might substitute every drop of water from Gooley reservoir if it metered its personal water and plugged the tens of millions of leaks in its large water distribution system.  Another was Saratoga County’s Don Brightman who testified on behalf of our wild rivers like the Hudson to the United States Congress. Even the Vacation Inn in Lake George featured the challenge and hosted a large convention of these against the dam.

It was conferences, studies and testimonials like these that helped Senator Bernard C. Smith (Republican, Northport on Lengthy Island), an angler  and a persuasive politician intensely dedicated to the conservation of our state’s wilderness and pure assets. Senator Smith chaired the Senate’s conservation committee.  Thank our lucky stars for Senators – Republicans –  like him.  This spring, let’s salute such individuals dwelling and appearing on our stage 50 years ago as we take pleasure in every sparkling, frothing speedy and reflective stillwater of the wild Upper Hudson River.

Photographs, from above: Hudson River in Newcomb; Hudson River near the Blue Ledges by Paul Schaefer, c. 1968; Extent of proposed Gooley dam reservoir, c. 1968; and Holiday Inn in Lake George signal.

David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and extra, has been concerned in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as government director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, government director of Shield the Adirondacks and at present as managing associate with Adirondack Wild: Buddies of the Forest Protect

Throughout Dave’s tenure at the Association, the group completed the Middle for the Forest Preserve together with the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s residence. The library has the best Adirondack assortment outdoors the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation historical past.

Presently, Dave is managing companion in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Buddies of the Forest Preserve.

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