Minerals beneath Great Sacandaga Lake are being eyed by investors, and the man behind the proposal believes it could bring hundreds of jobs and billions of dollars to the region.
A group of scientists and speculators led by a former resident of the region has proposed dredging the lake to remove metals.
Texas resident Arthur Ambrosino, who grew up on the lake, said he has been researching and discussing the dredging of minerals from the lake bottom for 15 years.
He would not specify the minerals that would be sought.
But he said that dredging the lake's southern basin for just one specific mineral, magnetite, could yield $1.5 billion worth of the material, generating jobs and revenue for a region that could use them.
Other minerals that are used to make titanium oxide, a compound found in paint and sunscreen, can be found in abundance beneath the lake, according to Ambrosino.
The dredging would be done by a method known as sand harvesting, and would result in the lake being made up to 20 feet deeper in places, he said.
So far, the proposal is being met with cautious optimism.
Dredging could improve the lake's coldwater fisheries, and also help combat erosion on the lake's shores, said Randy Gardinier, chairman of the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation.
However, the federation has not taken a position on the proposal, he said.
"There are a lot of questions," Gardinier said. "The lake doesn't have a lot of structure, and you'd have to make sure you keep the structure that you do have."
The 42-square mile lake is a flood-control reservoir that straddles the county lines between Saratoga, Fulton and Hamilton counties.
Fluctuating lake levels have been an issue for decades on the lake, as have high temperatures, Ambrosino said. "The lake's surface water temperature was 84 degrees at one point this summer," he said. "In the short term and the long term, you would see improvement."
The dredging equipment would use curtains to restrict the turbidity, but Ambrosino said the lake has historically been too clear and turbidity could actually help.
Gardinier agreed that deepening the lake and creating more coldwater refuges would help trout fisheries and the overall lake in a number of ways.
"I agree with Mr. Ambrosino, the problem isn't the lake level but the level of the lake," he said. "If you remove some of the lake bottom, you create more storage."
The group has not made any formal applications to the state or Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, which controls the lake's levels.
Neither the HRBRD nor the DEC would comment on the proposal in light of the fact that no formal permit applications have been made.
Ambrosino has launched a website about the proposal, www.gsldeepening.com.