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Extra water in the Black River creates highs and lows for businesses

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It’s a rare sight this time of year on the Black River. The water has been running at a rapid rate and it’s creating highs and lows for business.

The flow of the Black River’s waters has all three turbines turning at Watertown’ hydroelectric plant.

Manager Jeff Hammond calls it an oddity.

“Typically, we consider ourselves lucky if we have one unit running,” said Hammond.

Heavy rains have the Black River raging.

“That kind of volume, that’s what’s making everything work,” said Hammond.

And it’s providing a lift to Watertown’ wallet. After a certain point, the city gets paid for the energy that plant produces - a point rarely reached in July.

“We made our quota in the first seven or eight days. So, we’re making money right now,” said Hammond.

But big water on the Black River has been a bumpy ride for a local rafting company called Adirondack River Outfitters.

“Due to excessive high water levels recently, we did reschedule some of our trips for safety purposes,” said Alex Atchie, Adirondack River Outfitters.

He says the water is receding and the company’s rafts should be adventuring out by the weekend.

“We’re hoping to get the rest of them in for the season, especially after the COVID thing that went on last year, and we lost half our season,” he said.

“Heavy rains over the weekend also bombarded the city’s sewer system, which flooded many Watertown properties. So, the fire department stayed busy, at times using heavy-duty pumps to get water out of buildings.

“We got to 45. It started about 11:30 Saturday night, and went to about 2 a.m. Monday morning,” said Tucker Wiley, battalion chief, Watertown Fire Department.

He says it’s common for crews to respond to floods when heavy storms hit.

“Sewers probably get so full. If you don’t have a good drain in your house, it just can’t keep up,” he said.

So, from the Black River down to the city’s sewers, Watertown has felt the effects of a wetter than usual July.

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