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Author Topic: ECNA Provides Positive Proof that Tree Roots on Earthen Dams Cause Leaks  (Read 42 times)

Doug K

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First of all, in full disclosure, I was not always supporting the NYS Canal Corporation (NYSCC) Earthen Embankment Integrity Program, or EEIP as it's known by, when all this unsafe embankment dam talk started. Way back when the NYSCC said they had a canal embankment safety problem, I was somewhat skeptical.

But many neighbors came to me and asked if I would lead an effort against this canal embankment clearing work. I started contacting the NYSCC and they showed up at my front door to explain it all.

And they basically said their property was unsafe, the trees were the MAIN issue, and that they didn't belong on a "dam", it had to be grass.

Wait... what...a Dam, I live on a dam??

I didn't know my wife and I lived on a dam for the past 25 years. Well, after reading all of the FEMA Dam Safety documents suggested, as well as the NYS DEC rules on Dams & Dam Ownership, I had convinced myself that my neighbor to the South, the NY Canal Corporation, was telling me the truth, canal property was a mess, and had become a safety issue for not only canal neighbors, like us, but also many unsuspecting canal communities beyond.

And we also learned that we did live on an unsafe earthen dam.

And so the Erie Canal Neighbors Association was born... and after that, some of my actual neighbors stopped talking to me.

This online Forum was started to educate and also provide a voice for canal neighbors & communities who share a common neighbor... the NYS Canal Corporation and it's 500 mile "park". We, the ECNA, have consistently provided proof that the Erie Canal Embankments have some serious deficiencies, and need repair.

We have supported the position of improving PUBLIC SAFETY along the Canal System whenever it's possible.

We are also supporting the NYSCC in their EEIP program, helping to identify the worst earthen dams around the area, and ask that these get repaired first.

At the same time we have been outspoken against a Facebook group that tries to turn a NYS Canal public safety issue, into a personal cause for the environment.

But for some of our members and guests the ECNA website & Forum have been a source of honest truth about all things Earthen Dam Safety related.

And here's one of the "experiments" that the ECNA ran to test that NYS Canal Corporation's statement that "tree roots are the cause of embankment leaking", through what's known as "piping". The video below explains the Piping Process, from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO)


Back in 2017 the Canal Corporation said that 400' of embankment trees along our property had to be removed. Keep in mind that our property in Brockport, is OLDER than the Barge Canal, built in 1880. The trees and undergrowth were thick and provided a barrier to the canal property. But they had to clear these embankments for the safety of MY family and the hundreds of neighbors beyond our two acres.

Here's how it changed in 5 years:

Now some may say this new look is "horrible", a devastation... I've heard catastrophe used by a certain Facebook group.

If you owned the earthen dam, which one do you think looks the safest, then or now?

And there's always a "bright side"... ask any neighbor of the Canal Corporation and they will tell you that it makes it MUCH easier to see where the LEAKS are now. Which just  happened to be the goal of the entire EERP project. You see Canal Neighbors properties are almost always wet, if you happen to live below the waterline.

Here's the tree in question... it has 5 trunks and sits about 5' away from the Toe of Slope on the Canal Embankment Dam in our backyard. It was on OUR property but within the 15' zone that was supposed to be cleared as part of the EEIP program that hit western NY in 2018. I left the tree, when asked if they could come on my property to remove it. Did that just to see if it would pipe water after the rest of the embankment trees, about 15  around it, were did... badly.

Our dead tree started leaking about 6 months after the Canal was filled... as well as four other leaks along our property, that have all been found since the dams was cleared.

Let you in on a little secret, we created this embankment leak along the canal, by "saving" a tree that the Canal Corporation wanted gone... on this property.

You can clearly see the Embankment Dam, all restored, and this green wet spot, and that was 200 feet away in the first frame of these pictures.

Here's the Leak:

Those brown, silty patches of soil are called boils, where ultra fine dirt particles escape the earthen dam through piping routes. The piping you see here is directly out of the base of the 5-Trunk Tree that has also died, a direct result of the embankment clearing from 2018.

Because trees are not really supposed to be growing at the Base of an Embankment Dam, along the Toe of the Outboard Slope.

This dead CANALSIDE tree is slated to be removed, and THAT WORK will be made that much harder because this embankment was restored with privacy barrier planting last April. I've already extended my Thank You to the Canal Corporation, for letting me do a very big engineering experiment here, along their dam.

Lessons Learned from this experiment:

1) Dead Tree Roots cause Earthen Embankments to Leak by piping water as roots shrink
2) Separating trees roots systems is near impossible, even on trees that are 25' apart
3) If you can't see the dam, you can't inspect it...and if you do plant grass, it becomes so much easier to see the leaks.

And most neighbors also know that the best time to see leaks on the Canal Embankments is the first snow, when there's a dusting on the ground that is still a bit warm... and you can see all of this clearly

And yes folks, I did have to apologize to the NYSCC for my little embankment experiment.

But they also understood that I did this just to make sure they were telling the truth about tree roots and earthen dams... "Dead trees cause Canal Leaks they said.

And we ALL should listen and heed the warning.

After all, they OWN the dam property, and also know how to manage it best, not the Facebook people, who simply walk along the canal trail at the top of the dam, and say they have the answers.

And here's another picture of the embankment, after clearing and then after restoration, taken from the Top of the Dam.. today. Really can't show the exact image anymore, the natural privacy barrier for our neighborhood is a very good separation from the Canal Trail and the 20 odd houses built along the bottom of this 1 mile long dam.

Does this new cleared embankment look horrible, is this really what devastation looks like?

Did you know that 37 trees were removed total, along our property, and 78 new ones were replanted as part of the Canal Embankment program?

Which version of this dams do you think is safer from leaking or flooding if a tree were to topple or die?

A: The restored Embankment from 2021

B: The Stump Covered one from 2018

C: The overgrown, mess from 2016

Isn't it really obvious this is NOT about "the environment?"

Embankment Maintenance is about the SAFETY of those living below Earthen Canal Embankments...
« Last Edit: November 29, 2021, 03:45:03 pm by Doug K »

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