.... Chazy Lake is a comparatively small lake located in the west central section of Clinton County. The first man to enter the area in the vicinity of the lake was in 1690 when Samuel Champlain traversed the length of Lake Champlain which lies approximately 20 miles to the east. The first permanent white settlers to settle in the area of the lake was in 1836 when a family took residence in an old rude log shanty which had been abandoned by earlier hunters. The area was under the control of the French until 1763. With the signing of the treaty ending the French and Indian war, the control of the area passed to the British. The lake is named for a French army Lieutenant who was killed by Indians at the approximate mouth of the Little Chazy River in 1665
..... Relative to Heart's Delight Farm the lake lies approximately 20 miles to the southeast on a line or about 27 miles by the most direct road route and is situated at an elevation of 1531 feet above sea level. The lake at its normal level is approximately 3 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide at its widest point. At its normal level its surface area is about 1530 acres or approximately 2 1/2 square miles. With the water in the lake level with the spillway of the dam, or at an elevation of 1541 feet, the area of the lake is approximately 1935 acres or slightly over three square miles. Chazy Lake drains an area of about 22.4 square miles. The drainage from the southwest side is primarily from Lyon Mountain which rises to an elevation of 3,830 feet and from the southeast from Johnson Mountain which rises to an elevation of about 2,500 feet and Ellenburg Mountain on the north side which also rises to about 2,500 feet above sea level.
..... The South Branch of the Great Chazy River has its source at the outlet of Chazy Lake and flows in a northeasterly direction until it connects with the North Branch at Mooers Forks, at which point the combined streams continue to flow in a northeasterly direction until it empties into Lake Champlain near King's Bay. The total length of the river from its source to the point where it empties into Lake Champlain is approximately 40 miles. The river is a comparatively small stream draining an area of approximately 247 square miles throughout its entire length and has an average yearly flow of about 275 second feet. During the wet spring months, the average flow will reach a peak of about 3,500 second feet diminishing to less than 30 second feet during the dry months, from the entire drainage area.
..... The Miner hydro plants are located about 14 miles down stream from the outlet of Chazy Lake on the South Branch of the river. We are, therefore, interested only in that portion of the river and the area that drains into the river above the hydro plants. The statistics as they apply to the total length of the river are of interest here only in that we may assume that the water available bears an approximate direct ratio to the total flow as the area of the total drainage area is to the area above the hydro plants plus the additional water that we are able to utilize by the storage at Chazy Lake.
..... The drainage area of the Chazy River from its source to McGregor Lake, a distance of approximately 12 miles, is about 60.6 square miles. Therefore, the total drainage area from which water can be gathered for the generation of electrical power by the hydro plants is the sum of the area draining into Chazy Lake and the river above the McGregor Lake spillway which is about 83 square miles. McGregor Lake is the holding pond above the McGregor hydro power plant. It is an artificial lake built by Mr. Miner to impound the waters of the river. It covers an area of about 100 acres and has an average depth of from 8 to 10 feet and is located at an elevation of 811 feet above sea level. McGregor Power Plant is located downstream from this lake about one mile and at an elevation of 682 feet above sea level. The water from McGregor Lake is carried to the power house through a 72 inch steel flume. The static head at the power plant is 129 feet.
..... After the water is used at the McGregor Power House, it is impounded behind a second dam, Lasell, that is located about 300 yards downstream. From this dam the water is again carried through a 72 inch steel flume to the Lasell Power House, about 2 1/2 down stream. The elevation here is 500 feet above sea level and the static head at the plant is 182 feet. Thus, the water is used twice for the generation of power and because the static head is greater at the Lasell Plant, this plant will generate about 40 percent more power. From the above information, it is evident that before power of any consequence could be developed from the Chazy River, it was first necessary to develop a reservoir at its source where water could be stored and used during the dry seasons of the year. This was accomplished by reconstructing the old earthen and log dam at the outlet of Chazy Lake that was originally constructed under the authorization of Chapter 289, Laws of 1869, entitled "An Act to Provide for the Improvement of the Hydraulic Power of the Great Chazy River and to Check Freshets Therein."
..... The act provided for the creation of a Board of three Commissioners who were empowered with the authority to establish and improve Chazy Lake as a reservoir for the purpose of improving the power resources of the Great Chazy River and check freshets therein. They were authorized to excavate a channel out of the lake, or build a dam, or both as they deemed necessary and to provide means of controlling the rate of discharge of water from the lake. Soon after the passage of the Act, about 1870, the Commissioners did build a log and earthen dam at the outlet of the lake at a cost of approximately $22,000.00, which raised the level of the lake about ten feet. The cost of the original dam was borne by the original power owners who owned power sites along the river. Before the dam was constructed, however, the Commissioners, in accordance with the law, had the lake surveyed and acquired all the land under water and that which would be overflowed when the level of the lake would be raised ten feet. Deeds to this land was taken in the name of the Commissioners for the improvement of the Great Chazy River and filed with the County Clerk of Clinton County. About 340 acres of land around the shore of the lake were taken for flowage land.
..... The survey of the lake and the land to be flowed by raising the surface of the lake ten feet was done by H.J. Averill, Jr., Civil Engineer, under the direction of the Commissioners. averill's original survey determined the surface area of the lake to be approximately 1530 acres at an elevation of 1531 feet above sea level and approximately 1870 acres with the surface raised ten feet or at an elevation of 1541 feet above sea level. It is to be noted here that a later survey indicated that Averill might have erred in his determination of the area of the lake at elevation of 1541 feet above sea level and that the area at this elevation is more nearly 2000 acres. For the purpose of this study, I have elected to assume the correct acreage of the lake to be the average of the two figures or 1935 acres.
The lake is fairly deep varying from thirty feet at the north end to seventy to eighty feet at the south end. However, depth means nothing to this study because the only water that can be released from the lake for the generation of power is the top ten feet, more or less, or the amount of water that is stored behind the dam.
The original tracing of the map of the lake made by Averill is filed in the County Clerk's office of Clinton County. The map in addition to showing the area of the lake, shows the name and the amount of lands and water taken from the various owners around the lake for flowage. The deeds to this land is also recorded in the County.
The original dam, as mentioned before, was built in the early 1870's and was a log and earthen structure and possessed very little permanence. It existed in a continuous state of decay until finally, in the spring of 1898 or 1899, it was washed out with the breakup of the spring ice. No serious attempt was made to rebuild the dam until about 1921 when Mr. Miner realized that if he was to obtain any real return from his investments in the McGregor and Lasell power plants, which he was about to build, he would have to develop a source of water to operate these plants during the dry months of the year. Thus it was about this time that he started his negotiations with the Commissioners for the Improvement of the Great Chazy River for the reconstruction of the dam at the outlet of Chazy Lake at his expense.
The preliminary planning for the reconstruction of the dam was started about 1921 under the direction of Mr. C.E. Hamilton, who was then farm manager. The engineering firm of McIntosh and Crandall, Civil Engineers and Surveyors of Burlington, Vermont, were employed to conduct the engineering survey of the lake and to accurately re-establish the location of the flow line of the lake when the old dam was in existance so that the spillway of the reconstructed dam would be at the same location. Mr. Crandall experienced great difficulty in establishing the old flow line because the boundary line stakes used when the original survey was made were of wood and many had rotted away. However, with the aid of mr. Averill's original notes, which he took when he surveyed the lake for the original dam, it is conclusively proved to be the same measurements taken across the lake on the town line which show the distance to be the same as given by Mr. Averill in his notes when he made the original survey. The shores of the lake at this point are very flat and any difference in the height of the flow line would materially effect the measurement across the lake. To substantiate the survey, testimony of certain old timers, who lived around the lake when the old dam was built and had a knowledge of the original flow line, was taken and preserved under an order of the court.
During the time that the old dam was out, the Commissioners paid taxes on all the land which they owned including all the land between the flow line and the lake. In some instances collecting rent for the use of the same.
There were temporary boat houses and such built between the flow line and the lake, but no permanent cottages were built below the flow line. Naturally while the dam was out, the campers, of which there were a number, built boat houses down next to the water. The Commissioners warned them against trespassing upon the lands, but permitted them to build the boat houses there, as they could not well put them at any other place, and in some instances small amounts of rent was collected, but from others the rent was never obtained.
Mr. Crandall, in addition to verifying the original survey, located all the property owners who owned camps and boat houses on the shore of the lake and located these properties on the map and noted their location with respect to the flow line. The list of property owners was then referred to Mr. C. J. Vert of Plattsburgh, who was then attorney for Mr. Miner. Mr. Vert made extensive title searches to determine the validity of the titles and to verify the legality of the proceeding of the original Commissioners. At the same time Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Vert were working with the Commissioners to reach an agreement whereby Mr. Miner would secure a permit to rebuild the old dam. It is of interest to note here that when the original dam was built, there were about forty owners of power rights along the river but by 1923 when Mr. Miner wanted to rebuild the dam, this number had dwindled to nine. On August 22, 1923, the Commissioners passed a resolution giving Mr. Miner the right to rebuild the dam and on August 24, Mr. Miner signed the agreement. This permit gave Mr. Miner the perpetual right to repair and maintain the old dam, or completely rebuild the dam, and the absolute control of the gates to control the water discharged from the lake.
A dam of reinforced concrete and earthen fill was constructed in 1923. This dam is still standing and in a relative good state of repair. The dam impounds about 17,325 acre feet of water. theoretically this amount of water would produce approximately 3,828,000 kilowatts of electrical energy when passed through the hydro plants at mcGregor and lasell power plants. This figure of production does not allow for evaporation and loss in the approximate 12 miles of river bed between Chazy Lake and McGregor Lake, or the water drawn by the State Prison and the town of Dannemora.
The McGregor and Lasell hydro plants were completed in 1923. The McGregor plant is located at the southwestern edge of the village of Altona. This plant is operated under an effective head of approximately 120 feet. There is installed in this plant one 600 KW and two 300 KW turbine generator sets. The turbines were manufactured by the Worthington Corporation and the electrical equipment by the General Electric Company. With the exception of the governors and swithboard, the equipment in this plant is in fairly good condition.
The Lasell plant is located about 2 1/2 miles down the river as previously explained. This plant has installed one 1200 KW, and two 600 KW turbine generator sets and operates at a head of approximately 180 feet. The equipment is of the same manufacture as that of the McGregor Plant and is in about the same physical condition.
The output from the McGregor and Lasell power plants is transmitted to the Farm and The Chazy Rural Central School over 22,000 volt lines. These lines are about eighteen and one half miles in length and in good condition. At the Farm the voltage is reduced to 2300 volts and distributed over 2300 volt lines to the various buildings and The Agricultural Research Institute where it is further reduced to 220 volts, three phase for power and to 110-220 volts single phase for lighting. The power plant at the Institute, the Farm and the hydro plants are all tied in together and can be synchronized together to operate as a single system. The farm power plant consists of a single 200 KW, three phase 60 cycle diesel generator set. The plant at the Institute consists of two 432 KW, three phase, 60 cycle diesel generator sets. These two plants are primarily for standby service to handle the light and power needs of the Farm, Institute, and The Chazy Central School in case of trouble at the hydro plants. The diesel plants do not have sufficient capacity to handle the electric heating boilers at the Farm or The Chazy Rural Central School.
The yearly output of the hydro plants will vary from slightly over 6
1/4 million kilowatts as in 1957, which was a dry year, to cover 16 million
kilowatts in years when there is adequate rainfall to keep the storage
of water at Chazy Lake to capacity. All power in excess of that needed
for lights and power is used for heating the farm buildings and The Chazy
Rural Central School. Also in the past, some energy during the wet spring
months has been sold to the New York Electric and Gas Corporation. At the
present time, however, all the energy produced is used for light and power
at the Farm, The Agricultural Research Institute, The Chazy Rural Central
School, and street lighting in the village of Chazy. Any excess energy
is used for heating at the Farm and The Chazy rural Central School.
Follow the following links:
Chazy Lake Page , for pictures of the Lake today.
Chazy Lake History , new book on Chazy Lake history.
More Chazy Lake History , stories of the lake.
More Chazy Lake Stories , more stories of the lake.
Lyon Mountain History, nearby community.
Dannemora History, nearby community.