ATTENTION: May 21, 2023 - Main ECNA Forum Boards are now open to MEMBERS ONLY until further notice!

Author Topic: Is the NYS Erie Canal Safe to Use in 2023? Why are Erie Canal Guard Gates Down?  (Read 10 times)

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1073
  • Choosing to Live FREE of Social Media Influences
  • Location: Port Byron NY
    • ECNA US Website
It seems like a simple question, one that the NYS Canal Corporation should be able to answer... but won't. They have been very tight-lipped about any and all Canal Safety work since they were challenged by a local Facebook group fighting against Embankment Safety measures using "the environment" as their argument. We have all but given up trying to get a straight answer, their new communication manager has moved on to better tasks now...


[a] Is the NYS Erie Canal System SAFE for public use?[/b]

Are the non managed Earthen Embankments lining the Erie Canal and used for navigation, going to hold up another year without a breach?

There have been recent NYS Canal Notices, that have shown a need to reduce water depth by 15% with 12-24" of water level being reduced along two main sections of the canal system for 2023. This is similar to what happened in 2022, after the Canal Embankment Breach in Macedon. According to the NYS Canal Corporation the water level reduction is to limit the amount of water seeping out though more than 200 known leaks that are within 1 foot of the normal water level of 12' deep. Yes 200 or more of the 300+ canal leaks stop, when water is held below a 10' depth, instead of the normal 12' deep canal prism.

Read about that water level reduction here:

And more recently the Canal Corporation has announced a lowering of two guard gates in Western NY in the famous "60 mile pool" between Lockport & the Genesee River. This guard gate lowering is NEW for 2023, and may be another "NYS Canal Corp "Band-Aid Repair" to a canal system that saw it's last major leak about 50 years ago. That was about halfway through it's 100 year old current life.

So why would the Canal Corporation lower two NORTH SIDE guard gates along a 15 mile stretch of the Erie Canal?

It could be that it possibly changes the water scouring the rip-rap along the north side of the Canal, which is the raised earthen embankment side. But that would only happen near the guard gate right? If you look at the Canal Corporation map of the Guard Gate locations you will see that there is a lock and another guard gate (Gasport) in between these two lowered guard gates. So what purpose do half closed guard gates perform?

Maybe the answer lies in the Canal Integrity website, which shows a map of the same area, with the earthen embankments identified on both the North & South side of the Erie Canal. In a 15 mile span there are over 20 different sections of earthen canal embankments spread along BOTH sides. So this section has a high concentration of population as well as a high density of what the Canal Corporation has termed "high hazard" earthen embankments (or dams which is what NYSDEC calls them).

So if you look very simply at this change (in Guard Gate Operation) the answer may be clear. Lowering ONE gate allows traffic to flow but also serves to limit water flow overall.

In the event of a Canal Embankment breach there would be a need to only LOWER the SECOND GATE to stop water flow completely. And the amount of water flowing would be less with a restricted flow in the main channel width. It takes about 30 minutes or more to lower these gates, and in that time water flows very quickly though a hole in ANY earthen dam break. Having one gate down would simply mean less water available to devastate the surrounding area BEFORE the water can be completely shutoff.

It could just be a precautionary measure to help reduce the risk or damage of a potential canal flooding event, or it could be the only lever left to the NYS Canal Corporation (NYSCC) to pull, to help maintain a somewhat safe Canal System.

After 5 years of being thwarted from carrying out the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program, known as EEIP, by a local group spreading mis-information on Facebook, the NYSCC must be nearing a point where another embankment breach may be ready to happen, despite their attempts to fix these aging earthen embankments. This is the same protest group that still believes all these measures to reduce canal breach risk are "just fear-mongering" by New York State. They spread mis-information & lies about canal operation, including wild conspiracy theories about canal work kickbacks and mismanagement.

Their leader posts pictures of Canal Repairs and thinks the flowers growing along the towpath are more of a topic to discuss than the repairs and sinkholes being done on what has been described as unsafe, high-hazard earthen dams by NY State. This is a recent picture posted by the group's leader, Elizabeth Agte, who still spreads mis-information about this whole Canal Integrity issue. Of course she FAILS to mention the rather large SINKHOLE that appears to be right next to this cement lining repair in the Perinton - Pittsford area

Ms. Agte's wrote this on April 18 at 9:27 PM:
Surprise! A cold windy grapple walk on the canal. A lovely patch of daffodils on the path leading to Pittsford from the Great Embankment. This steel embankment patch appears new, we donít remember seeing it before.

While Ms. Agte and her group disparage all this Canal Integrity work, the NYS Canal Corporation and parent New York Power Authority have been trying to repair "Canal Slopes", but due to social media pressure they have been limited to working OUTSIDE of Monroe County for awhile. Here's a post we did recently showing significant repair work being done in several locations, all of them outside the Rochester area, and away from the scrutiny of Ms. Agte and here group.

So you decide... Are lowered guard gates and reduced water depths the REAL answer here? Is the Erie Canal safe for operation, or should the NYS canal Corporation say "ENOUGH" and shut it down until proper maintenance can be performed?

New York State LAW says the Canal Corporation has to maintain the NYS Erie Canal System & keep it open. The Law doesn't say that it has to be open if the PUBLIC is in jeopardy from that same Canal System. The Law doesn't say that it has to be open if the PUBLIC IS AT RISK of FLOODING or DEATH from an aging, unmaintained canal system. The law states that it needs to be SAFE, and right now it is NOT safe... not my words, those are from the folks at the NYS Canal Corporation.

The NYS Canal System has passed from being an asset to NY, and has now become a BIGGER RISK than a benefit, due to an aging infrastructure, an agency that is intimidated by social media influence, and a local group who's determined to stand in the way of public safety.

Is it time to CLOSE the Canal until further notice, unless NYS is allowed to PROPERLY REPAIR the canal system and stop using bandaids to skirt their responsibility?

I bet the answer to these questions would be very different if someone asked RIGHT AFTER another embankment breach occurs and someone loses their house, or their life... just saying.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2023, 06:16:54 pm by Michael Caswell »

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter