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THIS IS WHAT the Briscoe Dam – or lack thereof – looked like in April of last year, right after one of the worst floods in Sullivan County history wiped it off the face of the earth. Plans are afloat to restore it, however.

Community Association
Purchases Briscoe Dam

By Jeanne Sager
BRISCOE — January 27, 2006 – Sometimes bad news is good news.
Before the massive waters of the infamous April 2005 flood destroyed the Briscoe Dam, area homeowners saw it coming.
They’d done surveys, come up with plans to fix the rotting wood.
They’d gotten offers from one local to donate hemlock trees, a commitment from another to saw those trees into logs that would be useable.
Excavator Jim Hughson had even offered up his labor.
But first they had to find out who owned the dam.
And once that happened, Richard Mall, a landowner who worked with the engineering plans for the new dam, said they had no luck.
“They were very uncooperative,” he recalled.
Then something unfortunate happened – fortunately.
Massive amounts of rain poured down in early April, filling the Briscoe Lake behind the rotting dam.
In the middle of the night, the stone-and-wood dam couldn’t hold back the water anymore.
The dam broke, and all of the water went racing down into the Callicoon Creek, all the way to Callicoon.
The homeowners went back to the dam owner, this time with the offer to buy the owner out.
They started holding fundraisers and set up a pledge drive.
A few weeks ago, the Briscoe Community Association Incorporated finally took ownership of the dam.
“Maybe now that we own the property and the dam is out, a new one, much better one, will be going in,” Mall said. “Maybe it’s a blessing that it worked out this way.”
The plans for a new concrete-and-steel dam will officially be unveiled at the association’s first fundraiser of 2006 – a Valentine’s gala set for February 11 at the Jeffersonville Inn in Kohlertown.
The Kurpil Family Fiddlers will play for three hours, breaking for an intermission when the plans will be layed out on the table.
So far Mall said it looks like there will have to be a lot more fundraising before any work begins.
“It’ll be a modern dam, a steel-reinforced structure,” he said. “They’re very expensive . . . we’re looking at, our guess is, somewhere around $200,000.
“And every year this takes, the cost goes up,” Mall continued. “As far as raising all the money ourselves, I think it would be impossible – we couldn’t keep ahead of the price jumps in concrete and steel.”
They’re looking into grants, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther is expected to be on hand at the gala to explain what she might be able to do, along with Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham.
The hope is that funds raised locally will be matched by grants, raising enough to cover the engineering, materials and the construction itself.
Mall’s already secured letters of support from the towns of Delaware and Bethel, the county and Jeffersonville fire district to send out along with grant applications.
He still has a few other municipalities on his list to visit, including the Village of Jeffersonville and Town of Callicoon.
The rebuilding of the dam affects more than just those with homes along the lake, Mall noted.
“We feel like the dam going back in would be a plus as far as the downstream communities,” he said.
The originally 70-acre lake could jump to 75 acres with one foot of rain, 85 acres with another foot – a potentially major factor in flooding in the Callicoon Creek watershed.
“When you start crunching those numbers, you’re coming up with a tremendous amount of water being retained by this dam,” he explained.
So far the members of the association are mostly lakeside homeowners.
There’s about 100 property owners, with about 25 active in the rebuilding efforts.
But with the recent purchase of the property, the corporation is really starting to take shape.
Officers have been elected with Jim Hughson as president, Sam Malangone as vice president, BJ Gettel as treasurer and Pat Durney as secretary.
But they’re still writing up bylaws and determining how to go about raising the necessary money.
Once it’s raised, the plans will have to be made up by an engineering firm, and they’ll be subject to approval by the Department of Environmental Conservation (which could be a lengthy process, warned Mall, a former engineering technician for the USDA).
That’s why the process could take years.
But first thing’s first – raising money.
“We can’t do it on good intentions!” Mall said.
Tickets for the gala are $10, which covers admission and one free dessert. Desserts and other refreshments will be on sale during the gala.
Tickets are available at the Secret Garden in Jeffersonville or Too Good to Be Threw on Route 52, just up the road from the dam.
Mall can be reached at 482-5138 for tickets, as can Burt Robertson, whose number is 292-5873.
Donations, made out to the Briscoe Community Association Inc. can be sent to P.O. Box 577, Jeffersonville, NY 12748.

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