Lake Champlain chapter removes old dam opening up brook trout habitat on the Ausable River in NY 

By Rich Redman 

Quarry Dam was an old concrete/timber crib dam located on the West Branch of the Ausable River, approximately four miles east of Lake Placid, N.Y.

The dam’s history is lost in the mists of time, but it was probably built to help loggers move logs down the river in the annual log drives. The dam, useless as it was, had several deleterious impacts on the river and on the brook and brown trout that inhabit it. It trapped and warmed water behind it, obstructed the normal movement of sediments, and inhibited fish passage with resultant decreases in genetic availability.

Retired DEC Fisheries Manager Bill Schoch, aware of the need to remove the dam, initiated this project with the Lake Champlain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The Chapter, a keen foe of dams as part of its mission to restore waterways, enlisted the help of other essential partners in the endeavor to remove the dam.  Those partners included the Ausable River Association, the Essex County Soil and Water District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Essential funding was provided by the Lake Champlain Basin Program. Assistance from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was crucial, as the dam was located on State Forest Preserve land and thus subject to rigorous land use restrictions.

Selection of an experienced contractor was a key to the overall project success, as the streambed and dam were recalcitrant players in this drama. Mike Ward of Ward Logging completed the construction work.

Despite equipment failures and unusually hard concrete, the job moved along at a rapid pace. All of the dam was removed, rubble taken from the site, the entrance road vegetation replaced and the entrance sealed with all players completely satisfied with the project.

Rich Redman is the president of the Lake Champlain chapter of Trout Unlimited.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.