The Chuctanunda Creek, on its swift descent to the Mohawk River, once supplied the power that built the city of Amsterdam, first the sawmills and grist mills and, later, carpet and textile mills. The picturesque creek, with its falls and cascades, still runs through the middle of the city, but now is largely unused. City officials want to explore using it again for hydropower, a good idea.
In fact, the Chuctanunda still has some visible remnants of those glory years, which ended in the 1950s and ’60s when the knitting mills decamped for overseas. They include bridges, railroad tracks, dams and abandoned factories, the buildings still impressive but deteriorating: firetraps that are costly for the city to safeguard but too expensive and historically important to take down. How much better, and fitting, would it be if some of them could be used again by new businesses, attracted to Amsterdam by low-cost power?
And there’s the possibility not only of economic development but savings for the city itself. Amsterdam expects to spend $1.2 million next year for electricity and another $125,000 for natural gas. Restoring dams or building new ones could cut or eliminate those costs, perhaps even allow the city to make money by selling any extra electricity to commercial customers or the power company.
One thing the creek has been used for in recent years is history tours along its four-mile walkway. They are led by John Naple, a retired earth science teacher and author of a booklet called “Touring the North Chuctanunda Creek,” who talks about its attraction not only to industrialists but to Native Americans and colonial settlers. Naple has also led cleanups that removed tires, bicycles and other debris from the creek.
The city’s master plan calls for the eventual creation of a greenway park along the Chuctanunda. That is not incompatible with using its water once again for energy, if feasible. The Common Council was right last month to authorize spending up to $7,500 for a feasibility study to see if it is.