Tag Archives: st. regis river

Heavy machinery at hogansburg dam

It’s even better than we thought: Removing Hogansburg Dam reconnects 555 miles

Justin Dalaba

Today you’re hearing from Justin Dalaba, our outreach coordinator for the New York Field Office. He graduated this summer from St. Lawrence University with a bachelor of science in conservation biology.

We took another look (and so can you, through the map below) at the St. Regis River and its tributaries that are restored from the removal of Hogansburg Hydroelectric Dam in Upstate New York. And we have great news!

After our map analysis, there appears to be more habitat open to migrating fish than we originally estimated. The next blockages existing upstream of the Hogansburg Dam include the St. Regis Falls Dam, Allens Falls Dam and Deer River Dam. Based on these three known barriers, we estimated that there are 555 miles of restored St. Regis River tributaries now available to migrating fish.

This is more than double the original estimate of 275 miles! [Note for clarification: We did exclude areas that were determined to be inaccessible to migrating fish, such as through a culvert or low water levels].

Watch this all unfold through the above time-lapse of the Hogansburg Dam removal put together by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division.

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Heavy machinery at hogansburg dam

Removing Hogansburg dam = Restoring nature and culture in Upstate NY

Check out the rapid changes to the St. Regis River even after just removing the west side of Hogansburg Hydroelectric Dam. Photo courtesy of Tony David

Check out the rapid changes to the St. Regis River even after just removing the west side of Hogansburg Hydroelectric Dam. More like a river, less like a lake! Photo courtesy of Tony David.

Justin Dalaba

Today you’re hearing from Justin Dalaba, our new outreach coordinator for the New York Field Office. He graduated this summer from St. Lawrence University with a bachelor of science in conservation biology. Welcome Justin!

Near the mouth of the St. Regis River in Franklin County, New York, are the final remnants of the Hogansburg Hydroelectric Dam.

The 330-foot-long dam blocked migrating fish and hindered a way of life for over 85 years. The dam neighbors the Saint Regis Mohawk reservation, also known as Akwesasne, and is part of the Tribe’s decades old boundary claim. Talk among stakeholders about decommissioning the Hogansburg Hydroelectric Project, owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy, began in the early stages of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, aka FERC, relicensing nearly five years ago.

Here’s what you should know:

    1. Hogansburg is the first hydroelectric dam in New York State to be fully removed. Plus, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is the first Tribe in the U.S. to remove a FERC-licensed hydroelectric dam!
      Hogansburg Dam has been the site for various mills and dams since 1762, with the initial construction of the Hogansburg Hydroelectric Dam we know today in 1929. The project underwent a thorough review in 2015, when FERC needed to begin the project’s relicensing process. For Brookfield, relicensing would mean costly mechanical and environmental work. Our agency, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Trout Unlimited, and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, offered an alternative—decommission the dam in disrepair. The Tribe took the lead, ultimately returning project lands to the Mohawk people. FERC issued a decommissioning order in June 2016, followed two months later by removal that is now near completion.
    2. The removal of Hogansburg Dam has reconnected nearly 275 miles of main stem and tributary habitat for migratory fish. Removing Hogansburg Dam, the first dam on the St. Regis River, will re-establish the river’s direct connection to the St. Lawrence River. For nearly a century, the dam has blocked this important stream habitat to fish migrating from the St. Lawrence River within the St. Regis watershed. The key fish that will benefit from removal of the dam include the American eel (Anguilla rostrata), lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), and walleye (Sander vitreus).

      juvenile lake sturgeon

      Juvenile lake sturgeon, one of the species expected to benefit from the dam removal.
      Credit: Justin Dalaba, USFWS

    3. Removing Hogansburg Dam restores historic territory that has shaped the Mohawk peoples’ way of life.
      The Mohawk people of Akwesasne have a deeply rooted history in a subsistence lifestyle including hunting and fishing along the expansive network of rivers connecting the St. Lawrence River to the Adirondacks. This was changed when early settlers reshaped the network of tributaries for natural resource and hydroelectric power exploitation.With funding from a variety of private and federal sources, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe was able to have a direct hand in the Hogansburg Dam removal and studying pre and post removal conditions. Decommissioning of the Hogansburg Project means the repatriation of land to the Tribe surrounding the river. Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe will continue working with other stakeholders to study changes following the dam removal.

      Heavy machinery at hogansburg dam

      Let the heavy machinery have at it! Photo courtesy of Tony David.

    4. This removed dam does not mean lost power.
      The poorly functioning Hogansburg Dam provided a miniscule amount of the power supplied for New York (if you want to be exact, 0.00058%). While the project could power 74 households per year in total, it was in need of significant resources to run, repair and upgrade the facility. In comparison, the much larger Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the St. Lawrence River matches Hogansburg’s annual power output roughly every 30 minutes. The Moses-Saunders Power Dam produces more than enough electricity to light a city the size of Washington, D.C.!
    5. The removal of Hogansburg Dam is a stepping-stone toward future conservation.
      While removing this dam does not restore the entire landscape, it is an important starting point toward meeting migratory fish restoration goals and restoring land for the Tribe. This is an opportunity for scientists, including our agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, to work with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to monitor the success of the dam removal and future habitat enhancement.
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Stephen Patch, senior fish & wildlife biologist at the New York Field Office, stands among the final remnants of the Hogansburg Dam. Steve has been an integral part of the dam removal. Credit: Anne Secord, USFWS.

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon stocking success!

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Cold weather, cloudy skies and chilling winds didn’t shake the spirit of fish enthusiasts at the Greenbelt Park Boat Launch in Ogdensburg, N.Y., last Tuesday.

The launch was packed with reporters, interested locals, several resource agencies, and 11,000 juvenile lake sturgeon ready to be released into the wild. All were present for the annual sturgeon stocking, a program led by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with supportive funding from the State of New York and our agency’s Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund.

You could feel the heightened excitement as hatchery trucks from pulled into the boat launch parking lot: the end to a 1,000-mile journey from the Service’s fish hatchery in Wisconsin, where all 11,000 sturgeon were raised. Reporters were busy talking to biologists, spectators were busy snapping pictures, and the truck drivers were busy prepping the fish and the nets for the release.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

Biologists started by transferring approximately 3,000 fingerlings from the Service’s truck to the NYSDEC Chateaugay Fish Hatchery truck. One by one, biologists would scoop a large net (capable of holding 300-500 fingerlings) into the giant coolers holding hundreds of gallons of water and thousands of fish, and transfer them to a cooler on the other truck.

From here, the NYSDEC truck would travel to six other locations on three separate rivers while our truck would release 7,000 fingerlings, net by net, into the St. Lawrence River at the boat launch. Additional fish were raised at the NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery in Constantia, N.Y., and were released in Cayuga Lake and the Genesee River in mid-October.

From Ogdensburg, the Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck stopped at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena and released the remaining 500 fingerlings below the dam.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The NYSDEC hatchery truck left Ogdensburg and traveled to the Pine Ridge Campground in Constable, N.Y., where another 500 sturgeon fingerlings were released in the Salmon River.

Students from the Akwesasne Freedom School were present at the site to help with the release and receive a hands-on lesson about lake sturgeon.

Students were able to hold the fingerlings in a touch tank set up at the site, and also help biologists with weight and length measurements for several fingerlings.


After leaving the Pine Ridge Campground, the NYSDEC truck made another stop along Route 37 in Fort Covington to release an additional 500 fingerlings in the Salmon River. From there, the truck traveled to Brasher Falls and Brasher Center to release 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the St. Regis River. Next, the NYSDEC hatchery truck drove to Raymondville and finally reached the end of its journey in Massena Springs to release another 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the Raquette River.

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

The fingerlings were four months old and measured approximately 4-6 inches in length. I was amazed to see how calm the fingerlings were when handled; they would allow you to pick them up and hold them without much resistance. The intimidating sharp-looking bony scutes on their backs weren’t sharp at all, but instead provide the juveniles with great defense against predators, boosting their survivorship rate.

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

The sturgeon stocking program has proven to be extremely effective, as we are just starting to find young wild sturgeon in stocked areas, a sign that indicates successful reproduction of stocked fish in past years. With continued commitment from resource agencies in stocking efforts, we can hope to see more of this prehistoric species in New York waterways as the program continues.

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS