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Heuvelton dam gets new alert system

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HEUVELTON — Revamped safety measures at a Heuvelton dam have been installed and, after test runs, will be activated Friday.

The Brookfield Renewable Energy power dam has been given a new alarm system that will sound when water is released through the dam’s several barriers. The upgrade may be in response to an incident in which two Heuvelton teens had to be rescued from the Oswegatchie River after water was released from the dam.

According to a news release issued by Brookfield, the new system includes a siren and flashing strobe light.

The alert system will be in operation from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 1 through Oct. 31 each year.

The alarm system will be activated when one of the two rubber bladders is lowered to release water over the dam or when any of the four gates are remotely operated to release water through the dam.

Brandon A. Parmeter, 16, was one of the two teens rescued in July. He and Michael G. Bell, 17, had been fishing under the Route 812 bridge, a short distance below the dam, when they found themselves trapped by the rising waters after the rubber bladders released water.

The incident required Heuvelton Fire Department to respond to the scene to pull the boys to safety with safety rope.

Fishing was a regular ritual for the two boys, according to Mr. Parmeter’s mother, Laura G. But until Wednesday, Mr. Parmeter said, he hadn’t been fishing in the river bed since the incident.

Mr. Parmeter, who lives on State Street with his mother and two brothers, said that on Friday and Saturday he stood behind his family’s home and heard the sirens being tested.

After being told about the new system, Mrs. Parmeter said she feels more comfortable about her son fishing in the riverbed again.

The incident prompted Brookfield to re-evaluate how the water monitoring system operates, though there hadn’t been a problem in more than 20 years, Brookfield Regional Supervisor John B. Gamble said at the time.

He added that the alarm system originally was supposed to sound only when the four gates were to release water.

Brookfield has since included the two bladders in that alarm system.

Brookfield, in its release issued Tuesday announcing the new alarm system, warned that conditions below the hydropower dam are dangerous due to swift currents and rapidly changing water conditions.

“Fishermen and other visitors to the area should not stand in the riverbed,” the statement advised. “When the Alert System is activated, any person standing near the shoreline should seek higher ground immediately as the water levels in the river will rise.”

During the initial report of the boys being trapped by rising waters, Mr. Gamble said there had been no alarm installed at the dam and the signs warning “Danger: Vacate river bed if warning siren sounds or warning light is flashing” had been posted as a precursor to the newly installed system.

The signs had been covered with tarps following the boys’ rescue to avoid any confusion, Mr. Gamble said.

The covers have since been removed.

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