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September 26, 2018

Brookfield, City Launch Probe In Water Release Incident


OSWEGO, NY – The operator of the Varick Hydroelectric Station in Oswego has launched an investigation into the water release that preceded four fishermen being swept down the Oswego River.

Jeff Auser, Brookfield Renewable Power’s Chief Dam Safety Officer, makes a statement to the media Wednesday regarding the investigation.

Jeff Auser, Brookfield Renewable Power’s Chief Dam Safety Officer, makes a statement to the media Wednesday regarding the investigation.

One of the men has died and another is in critical condition in Oswego Hospital.

“I have been asked to lead this investigation, the internal investigation, into the events that preceded yesterday’s tragedy” said Jeff Auser, Brookfield Renewable Power’s Chief Dam Safety Officer.

“We are grateful to all those who worked in the response during that tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, friends and loved ones, especially at this difficult time,” Auser added.

The power company has initiated “a complete and thorough investigation,” he said Wednesday afternoon at a press conference on the linear park overlooking the area where the four anglers were swept away. Several fishermen and others crowded around to listen in.

As they are still collecting facts in support of the on-going internal investigation, Auser said he wouldn’t be able to answer any questions regarding the status of the investigation, until it is concluded.

“And that concludes the comments that I wish to make here today,” he said.

However, prompted by the media, he did respond to general questions.

“Brookfield takes it role of public safety extremely seriously,” he said. “We have several signs and audible sirens and barriers at most of our facilities. We do everything in our power to do the best possible job to protect the public.”

The plant in Oswego is no different, he added.

“As of right now, there has been change to public access,” Auser said. “Everything is just as it has been.”

Brookfield will do a “very thorough job” on the investigation, Auser said. “We will not sacrifice accuracy for schedule,” he added. “We will strive to have the most accurate report possible here. I expect it will be a matter of days.”

Some fishermen claim the warning sirens never sounded Tuesday. However, according to police reports regarding the incident, the sirens were activated.

The investigation will consider when did the alarm go off, how long did it go off and how many times did it go off, Auser responded.

A group of fishermen try their luck near the area where four other anglers were swept away by the high waters on Tuesday.

A group of fishermen try their luck near the area where four other anglers were swept away by the high waters on Tuesday.

The area is a haven for hundreds of fishermen, local residents and tourists, every year. It is posted with signs warning anglers of the rapidly rising water and drop-offs.

Nowhere, however, does one find any personal floatation devices or other safety equipment attached to the wall at linear park or the stone wall in the middle of the river itself.

“We’re doing our investigation now. Chief of Police Mike Dehm is setting up (the city’s) investigation. We’re trying to get all the details,” Mayor Randy Bateman told Oswego County Today.com “We’ll work collaboratively with Brookfield to see what safety measures have to be incorporated going forward.”

The mayor would like to organize a stakeholders meeting, including some of the fishermen, to see what people feel should be done as far as safety improvements for the area.

Even if lifejackets were available, there isn’t a law requiring anglers to wear them, Chief Dehm pointed out.

Also, the mayor noted, if safety devices were made available along the river that begs the question – how to protect them from the threat of vandalism?

The city and Brookfield will share information, the mayor pointed out.

“Maybe there is something that one person missed and another one didn’t. So we’ll share the information all of us have,” he said.

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