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The Croghan Island Mill
The Croghan Island Mill

Citizens and students team up to save Croghan mill

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An historic North Country sound is in danger of disappearing, the rhythmic sound of the wheelhouse of the Croghan Island Mill, one of the only operating mechanical sawmills left in New York. It's dam has been crumbling since the 1980s. And the Department of Environmental Conservation says it needs to be removed. But local residents and St. Lawrence University students are teaming up to try to save it.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Here’s a North Country sound that’s in danger of disappearing.

[sound of wheelhouse]

It’s the wheelhouse of the Croghan Island Mill, one of the only operating mechanical sawmills left in New York.  The dam of the Beaver River in the Lewis County village of Croghan powers all the equipment in the mill, with the help of wheels and pulleys and belts.

But the dam’s been crumbling since the 1980s.  And the Department of Environmental Conservation says it needs to be removed.  Glen Gagnier is with the Lewis County Development Corporation.

The DEC said, look, if you guys don’t do something, we’re gonna do something.  And they started this summer taking out stop logs.  And they fully intend to complete the removal of the stop logs and the breech of the dam if we don’t do something.

Gagnier is leading an effort to save the dam and the mill.  He’s teamed up with St. Lawrence University students to come up with a plan.  Last night, the students presented their work to about 30 local residents.

Junior Mike Petroni says with the effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, it would be a waste to lose the dam’s renewable energy potential.

We tried to put together a proposal about how to use the resources of the dam to either stimulate local business or bring business in.

The students’ ideas included using the hydropower for local farming efforts like maple syrup production, even using the electricity to produce hydrogen for fuel cells.

Croghan resident Lori Lee says she supports any efforts to keep the mill running.

My father used to work for Lehman-Zehr, who ran the Croghan Island mill.  And then my uncle Melvin Martin bought it.  It’s just a very significant part of Croghan.  It’s historic.  And it’s just part of us.  And I just don’t want to see it end.

It’s estimated to cost more than 1 million dollars to rebuild the dam.  Glen Gagnier of the Lewis County Development Corporation says local leaders are scrambling to put together a plan that will persuade the DEC to give them more time.

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