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Sun., Oct. 4
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To boost water supply, Adams and Ellisburg consider tapping Lake Ontario


Adams, which for years has searched in vain for enough water, will now consider tapping into one of the greatest sources of all: Lake Ontario.

A group of officials from Adams and Ellisburg will meet Thursday to brainstorm about whether a regional waterline extending from Lake Ontario could be launched to provide a sustainable water supply in southwest Jefferson County.

The ad hoc committee was formed recently by Adams Town Supervisor David W. Kellogg, who held an informal meeting in November with officials from the village of Adams and town of Ellisburg to explore the idea. Those planners have also invited to attend Thursday’s meeting James W. Wright, CEO of the Development Authority of the North Country, Michael J. Sligar, Water Superintendent for the City of Watertown, and officials from towns of Lorraine and Henderson.

The town of Adams cannot expand without boosting its water supply, Mr. Kellogg said. The town’s water now comes from wells in the village of Adams. The village has drilled two additional wells in the past two years, but they are producing less than half of what was anticipated, he said.

The group has reached out to Kevin A. Kieff, director of the Thousand Islands Region of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, about the possibility of forming a regional water line, Mr. Kellogg said, and his response was optimistic. He said a Lake Ontario water line already installed by the state at Southwick Beach State Park in the town of Ellisburg could be linked to municipal water infrastructure, creating a route for the regional line.

Mr. Kieff “said the state office is very interested in partnering with municipalities,” Mr. Kellogg said. “My point is, why don’t we go to an unlimited supply (at Lake Ontario) so that we can’t run out? We all have the need.”

The village and town of Adams have explored ways to boost their water supply for years, Mr. Kellogg said, but without much success. The town has an agreement with the village to supply water at a rate of 200,000 gallons a day, and the town is now using more than half that amount, averaging 110,000 to 120,000 gallons a day. Town residents who live on Routes 177 and 178 rely on private wells, and some have reported salt pollution problems, he said.

“There’s a trailer park that’s working on a well, but we can’t supply it water because we don’t get enough from the village,” Mr. Kellogg said. “And every fall, we get down to dangerously low levels with the village because the water supply we have is coming in at a gravel bed. Sometimes there’s not enough water running into it and the village is having problems digging wells” into rocky areas, he said.

The town of Ellisburg has encountered similar problems, said Henry M. Colby, a town councilman and member of the ad hoc committee. The town has created two wells that serve the village of Elllisburg and hamlets of Pierrepont Manor and Belleville, forming three water districts since 2000. It would like to extend water service to the hamlet of Woodville near Lake Ontario, but hasn’t found a way to finance that project, he said.

“We’ve added an awful lot of demand here since the districts were formed, and if we had a dry spell we could potentially have some problems,” Mr. Colby said. “We’ve added a considerable number of houses along Route 11 over the past 20 years and experienced growth, so we have an interest in increasing the capacity that’s available to us.”

The purpose of the committee is to have an open-ended discussion about how municipalities might collaborate to link existing infrastructure in southwest Jefferson County with a new line from Lake Ontario, according to Mr. Colby.

“If you were to sit down with a map, you’d see quite an interesting pattern of existing water systems,” he said. “And you’d find that it isn’t very far from the Ellisburg water district to the Adams town line. The Route 11 corridor is near the village of Adams, so a lot of the infrastructure already exists. It may be in our interest to look at connecting a few of these groups.”

It wouldn’t be the first mutual effort made by municipalities to establish a regional waterline. In 1996, a major waterline was built that carries St. Lawrence River water from Cape Vincent to Brownville along the old New York Central Railroad corridor. DANC helped spearhead the effort to build that $4.4 million distribution system, which supplies water to Chaumont, Dexter, Brownville and Glen Park and General Brown High School.

Adams “wants to establish a consistent, sustainable water source from Lake Ontario, replicating the west regional water line” in Jefferson County, Mr. Wright said. “That’s a long way from concept to implementation, but we could be involved to understand how we could use our bonding authority and apply for federal funds.”

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