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Rome Dam Deconstruction

On March 9, 2017, the Town of Jay Board unanimously passed a resolution to remove the Rome Dam. The dam is 38 feet tall and 103 feet long and has a concrete gravity ogee spillway. It is approximately 1.5 miles upstream of the confluence of the East and West Branches of the Ausable River and the hamlet of Au Sable Forks. Built in 1897 and rebuilt in 1936, the dam provided process water and mechanical power for the J. & J. Rogers Company pulp mill, the first phase in its paper-making operation. For many residents, the dam is a reminder of the days when Au Sable Forks was a prosperous industrial center.

Rome Dam has not been maintained since 1971, when the Rogers Co. ceased operation. Significant deterioration has occurred: cracks in the spillway and abutments, seepage undermining the abutments, inoperable and collapsed intake penstocks, and sediment and large woody debris lodged in the intake structure. New York State has listed the dam as structurally unsound. The risk of dam failure is high. 

Assessing the safety of the Rome Dam, and planning for its removal if the structure was confirmed hazardous, was a priority in the Town of Jay's NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan, assembled in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. In 2015, with funds from the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery, the town contracted with the Vermont-based engineering firm Milone and MacBroom, Inc. (MMI), to assess the Rome dam. The study, conducted in 2016 - 2017, evaluated six alternatives--no action, full removal, three quarters removal, half removal, repair, and replacement--with the following objectives in mind: improve safety, reduce flood risk, reduce erosion risk, meet modern spillway requirements, improve water quality, reduce the town's financial exposure, limit implementation costs, and reduce maintenance costs (see Appendix K at left). Maintenance costs include insurance, accumulated state safety fines in excess of $4 million, and maintaining the structure to state and federal standards. During the study, MMI and Town of Jay representatives met with numerous advisors to share information and discuss alternatives. A public meeting was held at the Town of Jay offices on March 2, 2017.

"The results of the alternatives analysis suggest that full removal of the Rome Dam should take place to maximize public safety, reduce liability, naturalize the river, and eliminate long‐term costs at the site," MMI concluded. "Full removal is the only alternative that eliminates all dam safety requirements, downstream risks, and financial exposure associated with the existing dam. The main disadvantage of dam removal is loss of a historic Adirondack industrial dam. This loss can be offset with proper documentation and signage honoring the dam's existence.

"Full removal is the preferred alternative as it meets the most project objectives for the lowest cost. The anticipated cost to implement this alternative is $2.5M to $3.0M. No maintenance costs will exist following dam removal. Design, permitting, and deconstruction of the dam are the next steps to complete the removal."

As a resource to the public, AsRA is providing the MMI report and most appendices. Use the links in the sidebar to the left.

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