The Great Sacandaga Lake Deepening Project

The Science Behind the Project

Sandharvesting proposes a remedy to permanently deepen the lakebed of the Great Sacandaga Lake, a much smarter method of increasing the water levels of the lake.


    During the last several decades, there has been increasing dispute between the downstream interests and the recreational users of the water of the Great Sacandaga Lake. The downstream interests include 11 power generation dams, Hudson River water/Ocean water salt front concerns at Poughkeepsie and flood control at Albany.

    Large water-level variations to accommodate the downstream interests cause large areas of very shallow water in the Great Sacandaga Lake, especially in late summer, which is a situation the landowners and boating public find unacceptable.

    In an effort to reach accommodations to all, an Upper Hudson-Sacandaga Comprehensive Settlement Negotiation Team has decided to increase the GSL water impoundment by about 18 billion gallons of water, so that the surface elevation of the lake rises from 768 to 770 feet above sea-level over 20 years. This solution is tantamount to recognizing that more water means environmental, navigational and recreational improvements to the lake.

    Sandharvesting proposes a remedy involving sandharvesting and earth-moving heavy equipment to permanently deepen the lakebed of the Great Sacandaga Lake, a much smarter method of increasing the water impoundment of the lake.



    The geologic structure of the Sacandaga Basin lies on a great sunken block between two Precambrian crystalline blocks of the Mohawk Valley fault series. In the late Paleozoic Era, during the Allegheny Orogeny, perhaps 300-260 MA, the region was faulted due to flexure (downwarping). The bedrock across the Mohawk Valley sheared in ten or more north-trending faults, which have greatly influenced the present day topography. The faults are almost all vertical and in the majority of places the upthrow is on the west side. One exception is here in the Sacandaga basin, where the GSL resides. The Noses fault crosses the County line southwest of Johnstown, New York, strikes northeastwardly, and leaves the County northwest of Northville. The upthrow, which is as much as 500′ at the northern end, is on the west side of the fault. This side forms the southern most crystalline rock escarpment of the Adirondack Mountains. Less than 6.5 mi to the east of the Noses, the Batchellerville fault forms another escarpment of crystalline rock extending from well beyond West Lake, in Saratoga County, southward past Northampton (Fish House), and then southeastward. The upthrow, which is also as much as 500′ at the northern end, is on the east side of the fault. The Sacandaga Reservoir and all the nearby communities, including the former, now submerged Osborne Bridge and the Kenyon Islands lie on the plain of this sunken block, between these two Precambrian crystalline masses.

    A timeline and details about the concept, design and development of the Great Sacandaga Lake is available through the Edinburgh (NY) Historical Society.

    click here to read the article.



    Water Impoundment is what the Great Sacandaga Lake is all about. By building the Conklingville Dam on the ancestral Sacandaga River, the State created a tremendous Public Benefit for the Upper Hudson River Communities by holding back spring snow melt to control flooding in those communities. Some of the floods caused extensive property damage and cost many lives. Water Impoundment again became the goal when the Comprehensive Settlement Agreement was signed in 2000 to increase the amount of water impounded in the GSL to try and ameliorate the longstanding issues of poor navigation, poor fisheries and limited recreational uses associated with its waters.

    Greater Water Impoundment in the GSL will permanently solve all of these longstanding issues of the GSL once and for all, including the saltfront and water level issues of the Hudson River. Environmental improvements to the lake begin as soon as the water impoundment begins to increase, because it continuously improves the water holding capacity of the lake. At ~10-12 billion gallons of increased water capacity each year and 200 billion gallons over the life of a 20’ deepening operation, a deeper GSL will have profound effects on the well being of its fish and other fauna. The GSL is essentially sterile and relies on fish stocking efforts. The solution involves understanding how aquatic fauna survive or not as the lake goes through its annual water withdrawal and replenishment cycles (6 months of the year in water and 6 months of the year in a dry and frozen lakebed ).

    In time, everything about the GSL and its environment improves with a larger water impoundment. Shoreline improvements and access, navigational safety, improved recreational possibilities, boat and docking difficulties eliminated, cleaner, cooler water (reductions in pollution due to more water availability), a viable fishery, lakeside community improvements due to economic benefits of deepening and much more are all improved with a larger water impoundment.


    The lake level begins to drop from high water status to accommodate the following spring snowmelt, as soon as it is reached. Water is discharged from the reservoir at an average rate of 1.5″- 2″ per day (~1 billion gallons) and by the low water season over 200 billion gallons of water have been drained from the reservoir. It takes approximately 6 months for the transformation from high water to low water level status and nearly 25’ of lake level variation has occurred.

    As the low-water season approaches the shallow water shoal that surrounds the Kenyon Island Group and other areas of the lake becomes dangerous to recreational boaters on the lake. The situation becomes so serious that almost nine miles of shallow warning buoys are strung around the greater Kenyon Island shoal, warning boaters not to enter. This buoy line extends from Deer Island to beyond Northampton Marina. Boaters are relegated to the buoyed Sacandaga River Channel for much of the boating seasons.

    The exposed lake bottom at low water is sufficiently dry during the late season to actually walk across the old farm roads of the former town of Osborne Bridge and other former Sacandaga Basin Communities. Dozens of remnant foundations where the old farmhouses and barns once stood are visible. Except for the occasional sandbar from anomalous lake currents and ice-rafted sediments from just west of the former Osborne Bridge, there is almost no appreciable new sedimentation across the whole shoal, or for that fact the whole of the GSL, since the Conklingville dam flooded the area in 1929.

    In 2000, in an effort to reach accommodations to all, an Upper Hudson-Sacandaga Comprehensive Settlement Negotiation Team proposed remedies involving raising the high water mark to 770′ over twenty years.