1.12.2012

Reservoir-Flooded Villages of the Catskills

As I was commuting to work this morning, a story on NPR (In Russia, Modern 'Revolution' Comes At Its Own Pace) captured my imagination. The detail that caught my attention is as follows:

"In 1941, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin carried out his plan to build a reservoir along the Volga River. Thousands of people were ordered to move their homes or face being submerged."

Can you imagine having to move an entire village or city, because the area it was in, needed to be flooded for a reservoir? Your ancestral home, probably built with your great-grandfather's very own hands, and those of his friends and family? All your earthly possessions? The china/silver/wedding dress/knickknacks that your family's been passing down, generation to generation? Harsh!

This brought back to mind 1) the Chernobyl disaster, and 2) Zorin's master scheme in A View to a Kill *obscure movie reference* But in a serious vein, I did a little research online and learned that the world has a long history of flooding for reservoir development (Real Drowned Towns). As a matter of fact, I recall a news article a few years ago about this happening in China (What cost as China tames mother river?).

New York state is an excellent example. Not to diss NY, rather, it is one of the urban centers that has the most lessons to teach us about urban space and systems. As it so happens with so many other topics, NY state has an interesting history when it comes to reservoirs.

Apparently, the Catskills Mountains reservoirs project back in the early 1900s caused a number of small villages to be submerged, for the good of the masses down in NYC. There is a neat website in memorial to the flooded cities and villages, called "A memorial to the towns that were sacrificed for New York City" -- a little dramatic perhaps, but nonetheless factual. The reservoirs helped, and still help, NYC support the water needs of over 8 million residents.

The New York reservoirs include the Catskills Mountains reservoirs, the Delaware reservoirs, and the Croton system (more here "Hudson Valley Reservoirs"). That is an amazing feat of engineering and manipulation of natural resources. Which reminds me of the Hoover Dam.

So, all of this reading got me thinking: is there anyone out there who did an underwater photographic survey of the flooded villages, to determine and document any remaining structures? Kind of a la Robert Mallard's RMS Titanic expeditions?

I need to explore and research more about this topic, but this would make for a fantastic photography or even thesis project for someone. Meanwhile, I'll keep checking this Scubaboard.com bulletin board.

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