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Clarkson University students to examine Grasse River weir

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MASSENA — Clarkson University students and faculty will visit Massena next week to study the feasibility of reconstructing the failed weir on the Grasse River as part of the downtown revitalization effort.

Students and faculty in the university’s multidisciplinary honors program will visit Massena at 1:30 p.m. May 8 to study the cost and environmental impact of the weir dam’s reconstruction.

Village Mayor James F. Hidy would like to see the weir repaired as part of the effort to revitalize downtown Massena.

He is interested in mending the dam to restore water levels, which could create boating, kayaking and other opportunities downtown and spur development.

“I think it’s vital to the revitalization of the downtown community that it be repaired for aesthetics purposes, as well as to increase water levels for recreational purposes, and for it not being a dried up riverbed in the summer months,” he said.

Mr. Hidy could not provide an estimate for the cost or timetable of the work to repair the weir, should the project pass numerous hurdles and move forward.

However, in 2011, Clarkson University Professor emeritus Norbert L. Ackermann, whose expertise is in water resources, evaluated the site and Mr. Hidy’s idea.

He called $1 million in repairs a “conservative estimate” and said the project would require a firm specializing in dam repairs.

The village would also have to address the changes in the ecosystem since the weir first breached 15 years ago.

Mr. Hidy thinks the weir’s repair is “long overdue.” In spring 1997, a large tree floating down the river after a thaw broke a hole through the structure’s center, which has remained breached since.

“I think you would find many in the community who will find the repair of the weir long overdue,” Mr. Hidy said. “I can’t imagine why for this many years the riverbed was allowed to dry up.”

Mr. Hidy has suggested the weir repair was critical to efforts to revitalize Massena since running for his seat on the village Board of Trustees.

The weir’s construction may come into conflict with an approximately $10 million project to restore local wildlife as part of a multiagency proposal to restore damage caused by decades of industrial pollutants.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration project proposal comes on the heels of a $19.4 million settlement New York state and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe reached last month with Alcoa and Reynolds for damage to natural resources, fishing and Mohawk culture resulting from the release of industrial pollutants into the St. Lawrence River since at least the late 1950s.

That plan calls for the removal of 10 dams along the St. Lawrence, St. Regis, Raquette and Grasse rivers to increase mobility and improve habitats for local fisheries.

Mr. Hidy believes the weir’s reconstruction shouldn’t come into conflict with that project because the dam would incorporate fish ladders into its design.

“They’re proven successful in allowing fish to navigate up and down river,” he said.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe officials declined to comment on the proposals to reconstruct the dam.

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