Landslide closes West Lake Road, threatens lake home

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

Lower West Lake Road  in Jerusalem was closed all day March 25 as crews repaired broken gas, water, and sewer mains and shored up the road surface.

Crews from multiple agencies worked cooperatively throughout the day and beyond to restore water, sewer and gas services and reopen the road.

JERUSALEM — Lower West Lake Road along Keuka Lake in Jerusalem was closed all day March 25 after Yates County 911 was alerted to the smell of gas and a broken water main 1.8 miles south of Penn Yan.

Nancy Peek noticed the odor of natural gas between 6 and 7 a.m. and called the 911 center. Sheriff's deputies and NYSEG crews responded to 1861 Lower West Lake Road and soon reported matters were much worse as a landslip was beginning between the county road and the cottages lower down the embankment.

Peek alerted the owner of the closest cottage, Dr. James Woodard, who arrived from his year-round home on Skyline Drive soon after the leaks were detected. As NYSEG, Town of Jerusalem Water & Sewer, and Yates County Highway Department crews were working to repair the damage, Peek and Woodard noticed more water bubbling up on the opposite, uphill side of the road. It was then realized that the pressurized sewer main coming from Keuka College, which also services all the lake homes, had also ruptured.

The slide stopped short of the shore.

Within a few hours of the combined flow from the broken water and sewer mains, the land began to slide toward the lake, carrying with it Woodard's one-car garage built just three years ago. The garage stopped approximately nine feet down the hill but so close to the Woodard cottage that both structures are currently condemned, barring all from entering them for the sake of safety.

The threat the garage now poses to to the Woodard cottage is evident.

County and town officials met at the site at  8 a.m. Wednesday, March 25 to assess the damage and discuss responsibility. Speaking in phone interviews, Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn expressed her relief that no one was hurt either by the gas leak or the landslide.

The sewer, water, and gas mains have all been repaired, and Lower West Lake Road is now safe to pass. But the embankment will require extensive repairs, say town and county personnel.

When asked about the cause of the main breaks and the landslide, Jerusalem Town Supervisor Jamie Sisson said it was impossible to know whether the water or sewer main broke first. He also mentioned that the heavy equipment used by the county to install the new road surface last year may have been part of the equation, as might the removal of vegetation from the steep slope for the construction of the garage three years ago.

Ultimately, the resolution may come down to insurance claims by all four parties involved: NYSEG, Jerusalem, Yates County, and Woodard.

Crews from multiple agencies worked cooperatively throughout the day and beyond to restore water, sewer and gas services and reopen the road.
The garage is now approximately nine feet farther down the bank from where it was built only three years ago.
The garage and cottage have both been condemned for safety.
The distance the landslide carried the garage is particularly noticeable from this vantage point.
The landslide threatening the cottage of Dr. James Woodard on Lower West Lake Road in Jerusalem.