Outlining Kingston’s plan for Cooper Lake

Cooper Lake (photo by Dion Ogust)

Why are trees coming down on the far side of Cooper Lake, where lies the earthen dam and outflow piping that takes the natural reservoir’s Mink Hollow watershed H2O down to Kingston, via the city’s treatment plant in the Zena-High Woods area?

According to Kingston Water Superintendent Judith Hansen, it’s not part of the $5 million dam remediation the City of Kingston must complete to meet new state Department of Environmental Conservation dam safety standards passed in 2009. 

“We are currently working with our design engineers and have reached the 60 percent mark in that process, which is the traditional milestone for a review process by the DEC,” Hansen said this week of the plans to upgrade Cooper Lake’s infrastructure over the coming year. “Once they complete their  review, then construction can begin once all approvals have been okayed.”


Asked about a timeline for the work at hand, Hansen said that the design work will need another three to four months to complete, while the DEC review process’ length is “unknown,” and dependent upon other elements involving the agency’s work across the state. Add in construction needs for better weather, and she suggests a start date either “much later this year” or early in 2020.  “But that can all change,” the water superintendent added. “It’s all very tentative. This is a complicated project.”

Hansen said that there was nothing wrong with the dam, which has passed all safety inspections. The changes are simply required so it will meet new standards.

She noted that the pipes that take water out of Cooper Lake for transport to the Edmund T. Cloonan Water Treatment Plant via a system of cast iron transmission mains will be abandoned and concreted over, replaced by new pipes not in the dam itself. There will also be remediation work to the dam’s spillway, as well as to make the entire dam less steep.

“We’re not increasing capacity or anything,” Hansen added. “We also don’t anticipate any road changes excepting some minor work.”

All of this will be taking place on the far side of the lake, across from Cooper Lake Road and the “West Dike.” 

Virginia-based Schnabel Engineering is being paid up to $800,000 to design the remediation project and coordinate with the state DEC for all required permits, as okayed by the Kingston Common Council last February. Once designs are approved for the project, the Common Council will then approve bonding for construction.

The Cooper Lake Reservoir holds approximately 1.2 billion gallons of water, and provides an average of 4.6 million U.S. gallons a day to Kingston and Ulster. It was first tied to a city system in the late 1890s, when the treatment plant was built in the Zena/High Woods area. From there water is piped to the Binnewater Reservoir in the Town of Ulster, and then into Kingston’s 100 miles of water mains. Cooper Lake has served as the single source for Kingston’s water since 1927. The Kingston Water Department owns the lake and much of the land around it, including a house which serves as both home and office for the reservoir’s and Mink Hollow watershed’s official keeper.

As for those downed trees…consider that part of the design process.

There are 2 comments

  1. Collette Hurley

    I lived in Woodstock from 1982-84 and loved Cooper Lake. I even shared Bill Faier’s house for a short while, lived at the Zen Community at Mt. Tremper and also the Tibetan Buddhist centre. It was a wonderful time for me. We had great conversations at Bazar in the main street. I came from London, UK and fitted right in to Woodstock life – in fact it led to marriage to a US citizen (but back in UK) and the birth of our son. So plenty of life-changing things happened to me in Woodstock!

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