Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mount Morris, N.Y.: Mount Morris Dam


It's easy to make puns about this sort of structure. It's easy not to do so as well. Guess we're dammed if we do and dammed if we don't.

This particular dam is located on the northern edge of Letchworth State Park, located in Mount Morris in Livingston County somewhat south of Rochester.

This particular facility was built from 1948 to 1952 to help control floods by the Genesee River, which runs south to north through Rochester. Before the dam, Rochester would get pounded by flood waters every few years. Since this went up, it's been perfect in its effectiveness. It even held all the water in 1972 from Hurricane Agnes, which caused all sorts of flooding in the region. It was close though, as flood waters came a few feet from spilling over the top of the 760-foot structure.

Flooding is not a problem for most of the year. In fact, this picture, taken in July, shows the Genesee as something of a trickle. Even a little water makes the falls upstream in the park look nice, but most of the time there's no danger of the gorge overflowing.

What's nice about this particular dam is that you can tour it. There's a visitors center, and a friendly, upbeat guide takes people around once or twice a day in the summer. It's even free. Guest actually go inside of the dam, as they walk along the top right side of the area shown above, and then take an elevator down almost to the water level. The temperature inside the dam is less than 60 degrees all the time, which adds to the cave-like conditions.

If the Mount Morris dam were used for electricity, it would need a backup reservoir of water behind it to power the turbines. Since it isn't, the water just flows through it most of the time, although they sometimes back it up a bit in the late summer and fall to add to the scenery.. When the rains come, the nine conduits are closed to prevent water from rushing too fast through the area. Then they are slowly opened when conditions permit. The engineers can back up the river for 17 miles, if necessary so that it stores 301,853 acre-feet of water (one acre of water covered by one foot of water)..

By the way, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the dam has saved more than $1 billion in property damage over the years. So it was a good investment of $25 million by the government.

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