TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: March 30, 2011

By laboring through a harsh Adirondack winter, the work crews of Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Constructors have made significant progress on the construction of the new Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake at Edinburg.

As you approach the bridge along the South Shore Road, it's a thrill to see the skeleton of the new structure beginning to emerge from the lake's cold waters. The concrete columns of Piers 11 and 12, those closest to the east shore, are in place, with work now moving ahead on Piers 1 and 2 on the opposite side of the lake. The new bridge will have only 12 piers vs. 20 on its rusting 81-year-old predecessor.

Since last August, when construction began, the work crews have focused on Piers 1 to 4, 11, and 12 -- with some initial work also done on Piers 5, 6, and 10.

Carol Breen, Region 1 spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation, told the BBAC Newsletter: "We are pleased to see the initial progress on constructing the first six piers to support the new Batchellerville Bridge. We worked closely with the town this winter to keep the community and the many recreational users of the lake updated about atypical lake conditions, such as thin ice and open water in the vicinity of ongoing work, and we will continue to work with our community partners to keep summer recreational lake users aware of ongoing work to ensure residents and visitors can enjoy the lake safely throughout construction."

Each of the bridge's piers will consist of four components. At the bottom of the lake sits the pier's footing, a concrete rectangle 36 feet long by 19 feet wide by 7 feet high. Each footing supports a pair of tall, side-by-side concrete columns. The twin columns -- each of which is 7 feet in diameter -- are joined at the top by a concrete structure called a cap beam (colloquially known as a "hammerhead" because that's what it looks like). The final component is a concrete pad on which the bridge's girders will rest.

For the most part, the pier footings will be so far underwater that we will never see them -- even when the lake is at its maximum target drawdown level. The only exceptions will be Piers 1, 11, and 12. Since the nearby piers of the old bridge will be demolished and left on the lake bottom to form a fish habitat, anglers hope the area around the new bridge will become a hot spot.

The first step in building a new pier is erecting a cofferdam, a watertight structure from which water can be pumped to expose the bottom of the lake. While the cofferdam is under construction, piles (mainly hollow cylinders that will be filled with concrete) are driven deep into the lake's bottom to anchor the future pier securely. Some piles extend nearly 100 feet down.

The next step is to pump the water out of the cofferdam and erect the hollow form for the footing. Then a rebar cage -- a cluster of ridged steel rods -- is lowered into the form. The cage extends upward from the bottom of the form all the way to what will become the tips of the two columns that will sit on the footing. The rebar gives the structure added strength. Pouring the concrete is a two-step process. The footing is poured first and allowed to harden. Then forms are erected that will house the twin columns, and the second pour takes place. Today, the workers are erecting the rebar cages at pier 1.

Late this year or early next year, the contractor will begin installing the huge horizontal steel beams that will support the bridge's deck. The beams will be 12 feet high.

The contract calls for the new bridge to open for traffic in November 2013. If all goes well, there's a possibility that we won't have to wait that long. If you go to the Town of Edinburg web site (, you can view a terrific slide show on this construction project. Click on "Interactive Slide Show." The pictures were shot by Bob Monacchio of Edinburg.

Ever since 2002, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a new license on the reservoir/dam/power plant, we've become accustomed to hearing that the lake's target water levels have a 20-foot swing, varying from a high of 768 feet above sea level to a low of 748. At the beginning of this year, however, the license specified a change to a 19-foot swing, varying from a high of 768 to a low of 749. The targeted low was forecast to occur on March 8, and the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District hit it right on the mark.

With a heavy spring melt in progress, the lake has risen to 756.36, about 7 feet above target.

In Fulton County, D.A. Louise Sira and Sheriff Thomas Lorey continue to buy into the state Department of Environmental Conservation's claim that the state-owned buffer zone around the lake is part of the forever-wild Forest Preserve and therefore open to members of the public as long as access is gained without crossing someone's private property. The Sheriff has announced that he will no longer respond to complaints about "trespassers" on access permit areas. This contradicts the Regulating District's assertion -- spelled out on a District sign posted on each permit area -- that a permit holder has "exclusive use" of his/her segment of the buffer zone.

If your home is in Fulton County and you find members of the public venturing onto your permit area, please let me know. On a related matter, I've heard that some permit holders in Fulton County are considering grieving their tax assessments in May. Their argument: Opening the buffer zone to the public detracts from adjacent property values by as much as 40 percent, according to one estimate, and assessments should be reduced accordingly.

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at Warren County Municipal Center, 1340 State Route 9, Lake George, NY 12845.