Project to Rehabilitate Conklingville Dam will Ensure Continued Flood Protection for Downstream Communities
Supports the State's Commitment to Increasing Investments in Resilient Infrastructure
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that New York State will make a major investment in nearly century-old infrastructure which provides flood protection to communities along the Hudson River in Albany, Warren, Washington, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties, including the capital city of Albany. The Office of General Services has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for engineering services seeking a firm to provide final design and oversight for a major rehabilitation of the state-owned Conklingville Dam.
Completed in 1930, the 95-foot-high Conklingville Dam was constructed at Hadley (Saratoga County) on the Sacandaga River largely in response to catastrophic flooding in 1913 in the Capital Region which impacted Albany and other riverfront communities like Waterford, Cohoes, Green Island, Watervliet, Rensselaer, and Troy. Known as the "Great Flood of 1913" this event triggered severe infrastructure damage and a public health emergency, prompting calls for a major flood control project to protect riverfront communities, setting in motion the dam's construction of Great Sacandaga Lake.
"We are seeing the reality of climate change here in New York and across the country year after year, and it is no longer acceptable to simply hope for the best while failing to make the necessary investments in public safety and resiliency," Governor Hochul said. "We need to make smart, strategic investments in critical infrastructure like the Conklingville Dam and other flood protection infrastructure without delay as part of a comprehensive strategy to protect our communities and New Yorkers."
Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "The construction of the Conklingville Dam was incredibly ambitious in 1930, and reminds us what New Yorkers can do when they come together to solve a problem. As we look to implement new measures across the board to make our communities more resilient, sustainable, and safe - we can't fail to make the necessary investments in critical infrastructure which has been protecting New Yorkers for generations."
Executive Director of the Hudson River - Black River Regulating District John Callaghan said, "The Regulating District's faithful maintenance and operation of the Conklingville Dam for over 90 years has kept this infrastructure in good working order, helping to reduce peak flood levels in downstream communities year after year for generations. This welcome commitment of funding will ensure our dedicated staff can continue maintaining and operating the dam in the century ahead to help keep area residents safe."
On March 27, 1930, the gates of the Conklingville Dam were closed, and the Great Sacandaga Lake began to fill. Today, the Hudson River - Black River Regulating District continues to maintain and operate the dam, providing important flood protection benefits to these communities by storing water that would otherwise contribute to downstream flooding during periods of high flow, and releasing water during periods of low flow during drier summer months producing ecological, recreational, and renewable energy benefits.
At 90-years-old and counting, the Conklingville Dam requires a generational investment to ensure it can continue to provide these important benefits for decades to come. These include:
- foundation and concrete structural repairs to minimize and eliminate leakage through the rock base and at the rock-concrete interface, and the removal and replacement of deteriorated concrete on all concrete surfaces;
- replacement and repair of spalling and damaged concrete along wing walls, outlet channel, and tailrace concrete structures;
- replacement of original low level "Dow valve" outlets with modern outlet valves;
- and other structural improvements to the dam.
An initial appropriation of $20 million for the project was included in the State's FY 2022 enacted budget. The State's ultimate investment will depend on the scope and design prepared by the engineering consultant selected by OGS.
The history of Conklingville Dam began with the Great Flood of 1913. There was catastrophic flooding from the Midwest to the East Coast in late March, 1913 resulting in a staggering loss of life, making it the second-most deadly flood in U.S. history. Within weeks of the flood's crest in Albany on March 28th, a typhoid epidemic caused by the contamination of Albany's public water supply by flood waters started to sweep through the city. The impacts of this historic flood helped spur New York's leaders to construct a major flood protection reservoir - known today as the Great Sacandaga Lake - by constructing the Conklingville Dam on the Sacandaga River in the Town of Hadley, Saratoga County.
While the 1913 flood helped build support for flood protection measures, the idea of creating storage reservoirs to dam Hudson River tributaries for both flood protection - and to provide a reliable flow of water for mills during the drier summer months - was a concept that had been discussed for decades. But the 1913 flood set things in motion, and the State Legislature approved an amendment to the State's constitution allowing up to three percent of the state forest land in the Adirondacks to be inundated for new flood control reservoirs. The voters approved the measure, known as the Burd Amendment, in the November 4 election that year, and the subsequent 1915 Machold Storage Act provided for the establishment of "river regulating districts." The Hudson River Regulating District was formed in 1922 and construction of the Conklingville Dam, designed by the Regulating District's first Chief Engineer Edward Haynes Sargent, began in 1927.
Today, the Great Sacandaga Lake, New York State's largest reservoir, also provides significant economic benefits to Saratoga and Fulton County communities along its shores, and quality of life benefits to area residents. An access permit system allows adjacent properties owners recreational access to the 29-mile-long reservoir (42 square miles by area), which provides innumerable ecological benefits as well.
The construction of the Conklingville Dam and creation of the Great Sacandaga Lake remains one of the most ambitious and consequential public works projects ever undertaken in the area. The story of its construction was told in the 2017 documentary film Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga.