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Albany Riverfront Pump Station upgrade unveiled

A long-planned upgrade to a critical piece of infrastructure at the state complex in downtown Albany was unveiled Monday.

The New York State Office of General Services and Department of Environmental Conservation say a new wedgewire screening system will substantially minimize the impacts of OGS’s Albany Riverfront Pump Station on the environment.

OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy says installation of the wedgewire screening system in the Hudson River is one of the most complicated projects ever undertaken by the agency's design and construction team.

"New York State is entering the final phase of this new wedgewire screening system, which contains consistent of eight cylindrical screening system screens," Moy said. "They are seven feet long, six feet in diameter. And they have .75 millimeter wide slots here at the OGS riverfront pump station in Albany. Because this pump station draws and water from the Hudson River to cool the Empire State Plaza and the surrounding buildings during the summer, for both the state employees and the public to enjoy, this is an incredibly important substation for us. It brings in the cooling water intake system into compliance with the New York State Clean Water Act."

Moy says the project required unique underwater investigations, dredging, and the driving of piles to support and protect two concrete manifold sections where the screens were installed. The project also required the use of divers, barges, a crawler-transporter, and a 400-ton crane barge.

OGS Project Manager Derek Mitchel
Dave Lucas
OGS Project Manager Derek Mitchel

OGS Project Manager Derek Mitchell says the installation along the Hudson riverfront was an incredibly complicated process.

"There's two manifolds," Mitchell said. "Each was made of three sections. The three sections were built up in Fort Miller, up in Schuylerville, and then trucked down here and basically they closed roads down, OK. They drove all down to Carver's, that's a staging area, and pieced the three sections together. From there, they were able to put them on the barge and bring them up. Apparently the crane just barely cleared the bridge down here so it was pretty tight."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says the wedgewire system will protect millions of endangered fish and aquatic wildlife.

"It doesn't look like much but it's super important," said Seggos. " Those little slots right there prevent small fish eggs from transiting through the cooling water system ultimately protecting them. That's called preventing impingement. And, you know, this time of year is actually a really important time of year, we're getting into spring. Think about the fish that typically are susceptible to cooling water intakes, that's the river herring. That's the American shad, you know, incredibly important species, that this, this part of the Hudson River is their home."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan hailed the project for saving fish and says it’s a step in the right direction to correct centuries of environmental wrongs.

"And so as we continue our, our clean river project where we're seeking to stop the flows that come out a little south of here, so that we can do our part in making sure that this is a clean river and that that habitat is clean, and here for decades and decades and centuries to come," Sheehan said. "This is also a really important element of it. And I think it's a perfect example of how when the state and the city come together and really think about the roles that we can play in keeping this treasure, the treasure that it is that we can do amazing things."

The screens are now fully operational, and remaining construction work at the site is expected to be completed in winter 2023.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.