If you are visiting certain parts of Seneca Lake you might notice a large gray structure that looks a little strange placed in the middle of the lake. It is a field station of the Naval Sea Systems Command. The Test Facilities and Operations Division of the Engineering Test and Evaluation Department manage the test facility and is an interesting thing that many people do not know about the Finger Lakes. It is located in Dresden, NY, and can be easily seen from surrounding shores. If you are boating on the lake be sure to keep your distance as they do have individuals that monitor to make sure no boats or other watercraft are getting too close to the site.
At the facility they perform tests and evaluations of equipment ranging from single element transducers to complex sonar arrays and systems. According to their website “This world-class facility is particularly well-known for its massive lift and power capabilities. All sonar and acoustic testing is carried out by a staff of highly qualified acoustic testing professionals on systems and equipment of all sizes. For example, an entire sonar suite (mounted in its sonar compartment) has been tested at Seneca Lake.” The location on Seneca Lake is the Navy’s primary active instrumental calibration and test facility.
You wouldn’t think that large items can be brought to be tested at the site but that is not the case. Large test items or systems can be brought to Seneca Lake from the Atlantic Ocean or the Great Lakes via the New York Barge Canal System. The canal is able to accommodate barges up to 40 feet wide and 200 feet long.
The system is permanently moored about 1.3 miles from the western shore. The cost of conducting tests at Seneca Lake is substantially less than any similar at-sea assessment that the Navy could use. It also provides a more flexible and responsive testing and evaluation environment. The weather and water conditions are also fairly constant and more predictable which makes it a testing site of choice for major, large-scale projects, especially in a time-constrained environment.