Margaretville's Lauren Davis founds stream research program

Clarkson professor Hung Tao Shen (left) and Lauren Davis examine the Delaware River on Davis’ property on August 27, 2011, one day prior to the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene. Photo courtesy of Clarkson University.

Clarkson University announced last week that a large donation from alum Lauren Davis, a resident of Margaretville, would establish a new program on research into stream management. Clarkson is located in Potsdam, in New York State's North Country, and the new stream program will conduct research in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains.

From the Watertown Times:

A resident of the Catskills region, Mr. Davis made a donation to the college after flooding in the Delaware River caused significant damage to his hometown during Tropical Storm Irene. Although the new program will not offer a major or a minor, it will provide the college with an opportunity to pursue groundbreaking research in the dynamics, form and structure of streams...

...While the Raquette, Grasse and St. Lawrence rivers are too well-controlled to be useful in studies, said Mr. Shen, students and professors will be able to do field work at streams in the nearby Adirondack and Catskill mountains. They also will engage in laboratory work and computer modeling, with a design course slated to be offered to senior undergraduates in spring 2013.

Locally, Davis is famous -- or perhaps notorious -- for his dispute with the village of Margaretville over the management of the Binnekill Stream, a small stream that flows out of the East Branch and through the center of town, and whose bulkhead sits on Davis's property.

Gravel and debris deposits at the bulkhead are preventing water from flowing freely into the Binnekill. For years, the Binnekill has been mostly dry, as Davis and village officials argue over how to manage the stream. In 2008, Davis told the Catskill Mountain News that he thought the village's plans for the stream had serious engineering flaws:

Davis’ hesitation, he said, was borne of the fact that despite communication to the village board that dredging of the Binnekill would be a dangerous thing to do, those concerns were not addressed and plans to dredge continued to progress. The plans, he added, were attempts to solve the issue based on the single fact of a lack of water in the Binnekill rather than the culmination of issues that contributed to the waterlessness.

“It would be treating a symptom rather than treating the disease,” Davis said. “The disease is in the main river.”

In 2008, the village of Margaretville attempted to seize the bulkhead by eminent domain, but lost in state appeals court. In 2010, Davis filed a lawsuit against the village, which was later dismissed.