Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Gilboa Dam

As everyone is well aware, the Gilboa Dam has been making headlines as of recent. Among the papers which have held the story is, of course, our own Times Journal, the Daily Star, the Times Union, and the New York Times. But, other than knowing the dam is etcetera years old, few people are privy to the history of the dam.

The hamlet of old Gilboa was founded March 16, 1848. Through it’s history of seventy years, it would contain an ice cream parlor, a tannery, a creamery, a foundry, a tinsmith, a blacksmith, a cotton mill, and a grist mill. Furthermore, it held two hotels, three churches, and a two-roomed schoolhouse. Before the dam was constructed, Gilboa was a trade center for southern Schoharie County.

Now, the proposal for a dam to serve New York City was not a new idea. Actually, a bill was proposed in 1906, then again in 1912, for the construction of a dam in Schoharie County. Both were rejected. But between 1912 and 1916, the Schoharie Creek was found to have a creek bed of solid rock, so when a bill was proposed in 1916, the state authorized the construction of the Prattsville Dam, which was subsequently changed to the Gilboa Dam.

Old Gilboa was doomed. The state set up three commisions to condemn buildings, the first of which was a church. The moving of people and the condemning of buildings did not happen instantly. Rather, people were allowed to stay in their homes for a few years after construction began, but it was evident that in a short amount of time, they would have to move.

As construction continued, workers took residence nearby, and stone quarries were opened. Bodies and tombstones were placed at different locations, obviously they didn’t want dead bodies floating in their water supply. Tunnels were constructed to take the water to New York City. In 1927, construction of the dam was finished, and water first went over the top of the dam on October 20, 1927.

Now it has come to today. For 78 years the state has done nothing to the dam, and for 78 years the dam has been eroding. Not that the state hasn’t noticed the old dam. Actually the state had plans to strengthen the dam... in 2010. But this was before the New York City Department of Environment Protection said it was “concerned with the integrity” of the Gilboa Dam. Now there are plans to drill holes in the dam, and reinforce it with steel cables, which will strengthen the dam until it is redone. If the dam was to break, parts of Esperance, Central Bridge, Schoharie, Middleburgh, Fulton, Breakabeen, Broome, North Blenheim, Conesville, and Gilboa would be flooded. This is according to the map given in the November 16th issue of the Times Journal.

Since the story first broke in October, the state’s been going crazy to calm citizens, holding meetings, making evacuation “plans” for the citizens effected, and the state has even set up a website dedicated to the dam. The address of which is In November the mayors of Schoharie, Middleburgh, and Esperance sent letters to state representatives, including Hillary Clinton. The letters ask for an assessment of the dam, and what repairs are needed.

Little real action has been taken, and the main thing we can do is hope and pray that the Gilboa Dam stays strong and faithful, until it can be redone.


1. David Avitabile. “Dam Concerns Grow”. Times Journal. November 16, 2005.

2. Lester E. Hendrix. The Sloughters’ History of Schoharie County. April, 1994.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good writer, that David Avitabile.