Author Topic: Of course, this is still about Public Safety, why wouldn’t it be?  (Read 285 times)

Doug K

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A friend of mine called me on my return from a much needed escape South. Part of the trip’s purpose was to just get away from the Rochester area Erie Canal dilemma I’ve nicknamed: The Battle for the Erie Canal. If you are new to this discussion the “battle” is about fixing earthen embankments that were created in the last century, when they turned the original Erie Canal into the NYS Barge Canal System. Local, State, Federal Agencies, along with all qualified Dam Experts agree with this statement “Trees on Dams Kill People”.

Sadly some well-meaning but miss-guided people in our communities do not agree with this.
So we have a difference of opinion that has reached a frustration level of 10. The Canal Corporation has stated the importance to Public Safety in developing their new Earthen Embankment Integrity Program, or EEIP as it’s referred to at times. Those in opposition simply try to steer the conversation away from Safety to “the Environment”, saying things like “Shade is Cool” and “Trees are our Friends”.
To be clear. no one disagrees with those simple-minded statements from the opposition, but in the end I would rather lose a few trees than a few humans…if a flood happened, as most of us would agree. Sadly the leaders of this suspect “environmental movement” do NOT share that same understanding. They raised their hands to save the trees OVER the humans in a local information session on this Canal Safety work when the embankment safety program was in it’s infancy. When asked for a show of hands on who prefers to save Squirrels & Trees over People & Houses there were only two hands raised in a crowd of well over 100 concerned Erie Canal neighbors.

Why these folks are engaged in this manner is beyond any and all rational comprehension as it’s just absurd to think ignoring safety issues or fighting safety related improvements that help the general public will ever work.
You see it’s pretty simple in the end, New York State has said they have a major canal system safety issue and some of NY's citizens simply do not want to believe it. Having said that I want to remind the reader of ONE thing… Disagreement about an issue DOESN’T make that issue go away or do anything positive to resolve it…it’s just “wasted time”. First identify the problem then create solutions needed... it always works best unless, of course, someone can't properly identify the problem in the first place.

I digress…. back to the reason for my post;

My friend, I’ll call him Mike, asked me if I had seen the latest from a group fighting against fixing the canal’s safety issues along the main waterway. He said they had given an “update” on the progress of the new Canal Corporation. I’ve posted that update here in a picture.

If you read this through, it’s basically a repeat of what the NY Canal Corporation has stated on their EEIP Website, part of what has been a concerted effort to improve overall communication on this very key part of the recent Public Safety effort going on along the canal. This all started once the Canal Corporation was placed into the hands of New York Power Authority, NYPA. You can find the EEIP Website here:

Summarizing this update message…one thing is clear.

Entering Year Three of the Erie Canal Embankment Saga, the NYS Canal Corporation has not changed its stance on Safety, and neither has the group fighting against their Embankment INTEGRITY Program. Please go Google that word I have placed in BOLD text, two meanings.
Those opposing simply disagree with the risk, they claim there is no safety issue and still believe trees can live happily & safely on earthen dams

We have gotten no where right?
Wrong… 27 miles of raised Embankment Dams have been cleared, replanted with grass and are now safer, part of one... that is 7200’ long, is in my backyard. That is a full 20% of the overall Embankment Integrity Program goals, and the Canal Corporation is laying the groundwork to insure that NOTHING will stop them from completing their job and restoring SAFETY to those living below and in surrounding areas along the N.Y.S. Barge Canal. They have learned their lesson on their first prototype and now are insuring their PUBLIC safety effort won't be stopped again for the wrong reasons...
We have also answered this nagging question:

Why the NYS Canal Corporation & NYPA are finally fixing the NYS Barge Canal System?

They have said time and again it’s for one reason… SAFETY!

As an Engineer, with global experience in safety & manufacturing consumer-based products, I rely on the facts before making any determination on a course of action. Normally I would have steered clear of getting involved in something like this, especially when the word SAFETY is involved, but since this work is happening in MY OWN BACK YARD.. I thought it might be a good idea to do a little research on all things related to Dams. I've read enough Dam Information (no pun intended) to understand that the NYS Canal system, specifically the main channel from Buffalo to Albany, is failing, at a rate that is alarming, maybe approaching 10X worse than any may have imagined... more on that later.

Here’s what EVERYONE needs to understand FIRST and the main reason why the trees are being removed along the Canal Embankments… they are really Earthen Dams.

The NY State Comptroller's Office, watchdog created to work on behalf of the CITIZENS of our State, has told the Canal Corporation, when it was owned by the Thruway, to FIX the Public SAFETY issues it had been ignoring for many years. The public was told by the NYS Comptroller about Erie Canal Safety issues in 2014. You can read a post on the findings here, it tells a story about a neglected & broken Erie Canal:

Of special note is the Key Findings of the Comptroller’s Report… they are here, and I have shown them in the picture below.

A few years after this initial report there were even MORE requirements added directly to NYS Policy regarding raised Earthen Embankment Dams and why these had to be cleared, again by the NY State Comptroller. It’s also a good read and gets to the main issues plaguing Dam Owners like NYCC & NYPA these days. Earthen Dams will breach unless they are well maintained & properly inspected, unfortunately that has not been the case on the Erie Canal while it was owned by the NY Thruway Authority.

Now those fighting against the change to the façade of the Erie Canal say they are working in the “best interest” of the Canal and its neighbors, in truth they are not. If they took the time to read any of what the Canal Corporation is saying WITH an open mind that "safety is in jeopardy" it might make sense to them. But if you take away the main issue, and replace it with trees & sounds good but doesn't fix the real issue.

Anyone or any group, who would keep an unsafe condition in place, one that could place thousands of people in the direct path of a catastrophic flood are certainly NOT thinking about safety nor are they community minded.
The real issue here is that this group’s leadership doesn’t believe anyone at all understands the canal or its “safety” issues like they do. They even ignore the facts presented by their own experts when those experts try to correct them. This is what they were told about DAM SAFETY (by their own experts) when they unsuccessfully tried their “levee argument” to once again..change the topic away from safety.

They even withheld CRITICAL safety information from members and still DENY facts their own experts stated a YEAR ago. The leaders of this grassroots group seem to have lost their way, and are bringing a scores of people along...for reasons still unknown to many.

It’s not hard to understand that Public Safety is a paramount concern in our society. To even remotely suggest that ideal should be ignored on the “say so” of a few unqualified individuals (who still have chosen to ignore all safety issues that NYPA & NY Canal folks are fighting) is just as absurd as the path these environmental advocates have taken in saying “There is no real safety issues”.

They know better, or at least they stated some time ago that they would get in the way of safety… what happened to that promise? Here's what they told a local news station quite awhile ago... and now seem to NOT understand they have done what they said they wouldn't do.

There has been enough said already on this ECNA Forum from the view of supporting Erie Canal Safety in our Community. Here’s a point of view from yours truly, read it if you want to start thinking about what REAL issues Erie Canal Neighbors are facing. It's not about trees, shade...want to know the real story? Just ask anyone living along the bottom of these leaky embankments.

Don't take the word of someone walking along the top trail, looking down there nose at a's about safety.

Canal safety is also about what’s NOT being said…and's a thought:

Sometimes the message is what we read “in between the lines”. Those who are trying to stop the embankment work would prefer to leave things just as they are. That is actually a time when the NY Canal Corporation was managed by the Thruway Authority, and they refused to work on their Public Safety Issues. That is a proven fact, read the Comptroller report folks and look at the timeline. Two full years to act and the Thruway still did not try to fix their safety issues, they chose to try and bury them.

And after the Thruway Authority did NOTHING to remedy the issues raised in that Comprtoller report, the Governor of NY realized the inherent danger to the public and MOVED the NY Canal Corporation to NEW guidance under the wing of another NY State entity, one that DOES understand the meaning of those three words, Insure Public Safety. The Governor handed the NYS Canal System to NY Power Authority with the request that they "fix it"...that is what we are seeing happen right now. It's our turn to FIX the Canal...again...every 100 years.

The move of the Canal Corporation in 2017 says it all doesn’t it?

Out with the old way of ignoring safety in the NYS Canal System and in with the new way of Public Safety First. Everyone has said the same thing about the New York Power Authority… They do NOT Band-Aid or duct tape repairs, when they fix something it’s fixed for a hundred years.

NYPA came in and immediately lowered the NYS Canal Corp Budget by 33%. The Thruway Auth. needed $55M to run it, even as poorly as they did, and NYPA said they can do the job for $36M. Of course that was BEFORE they took a good look at their new “asset” and realized it was actually a huge LIABILITY that needed immediate repair. It's going to cost a couple hundred million to fix all the canal issues, but fortunately the work was already budgeted in 2016 for a 4-5 year project..ending in 2022. It's all there in a report... I'm not making this up.

If you want to know the real story about safety you simply need to look at the number for CANAL EMBANKMENT REPAIRS,  the REAL data. Did clearing the Embankments make a difference or not, that's the question. Were they easier to inspect or not?
As an Engineer we sometimes develop a theory, then try to prove it by finding a method to enable that idea. With safety issues it’s very easy to see if something is a real problem or one that is just imagined…you only need to look at data before and after. If I want to improve safety, and change something, a result should appear... like we found more leaks. or we saw too much erosion here or there. The Canal Corporation maintains an active list of leaks, standing water issues etc...did that change?

Theory: If those opposing the canal embankment repair work are correct about safety, then clearing embankments will result in no change for reported safety concerns such as leaks, slumps, or standing water issues. NYCC claimed they had "hidden potential issues" that could NOT be inspected with embankments covered by trees.

Fact: Pink Stakes…yes pink stakes are all that is needed to understand if a real safety issue exists along the Barge Canal. Specifically the areas west of Rochester where the overgrown Embankments have been cleared. You see those pink stakes designate where leaks have been found after clearing the dam slope to do that proper inspection that the Comptroller reported about. If you see a pink stake it was placed there by a Certified Dam Inspection Engineer or Technician. I talked with them the day they planted our 3 Pink Stakes... nice guys.

We have 3 pink stakes on our section of a Dam… three different leaks along 400’ of frontage. There are many more pink stakes west of us towards Medina. The last Canal Leak count that the ECNA obtained, showed that the amount of new leaks found as a DIRECT result of the Embankment Integrity work has tripled from 27 to well over 80. We can’t confirm that number as the Canal Corporation has become rather tight lipped about all of this. They request a FOIL, Freedom of Information request form, for any discussion these days. They seems to not want to discuss their safety information these days, a real sign that the new numbers they have regarding safety issues MAY BE A BIT ALARMING. Originally the NYCC was monitoring about 30 leaks, by the end of the Embankment Integrity Clearing they may uncover an additional 300 more. It's always the math that shows the real potential danger. Think it over... 127 miles of Raised Embankments with 330 leaks... wow!
I’m going to take a 27 mile walk soon, once the New York State EMPIRE Trail firms up with a good freeze. Yes the new look get's a new name.

I’m going to count those pink stakes along the 27 miles of cleared, safer embankments from Brockport to Middleport.

And I’m going to count my blessing that the Canal Corporation didn’t listen to the likes of those who would fight safety under the guise of “environmental stewardship” as some have chosen. NYPA has taken ownership of the NYS Canal System, and also taken ownership to FIX all past issues and start the Erie Canal on it's next 100 year journey. We should all be supporting it, not thinking of how to stop the work. It only seems logical to assume if the Canal Corporation cannot do the safety work then perhaps the state might need to figure out other ways top make the earthen dams safe... like not use them. Canal Neighbors would take issue with that one.

Tell you what should be a well known fact --> There is nothing WORSE for the “local environment” than a catastrophic canal flood.

Remember this FACT as well… NYS Canal Corp folks waved the red flags saying “danger, danger” so it will be pretty hard for those around our area to say, like most people in flood ravaged communities do after a flood happens, “We didn’t see it coming”. While some want to shoot the messenger and bury the message, the TRUTH will not be changed.

The Erie Canal DOES have an Embankment Safety Issue and NYPA will work to FIX it... you can be sure of that.

But if a flood does happen, we can say that a couple of unqualified people said "they didn’t think this was a “real” safety issue"… if that’s any consolation for those who lost everything to a flood. With safety it should NEVER be about someone saying "I don't think you are correct about safety". The default is always WHAT if the person saying that no safety issues exists is WRONG... what happens then? The Canal and all its land falls under the State's control... it is their asset to keep in good working order..plain & simple.

With undeniable evidence against them some people in our community are STILL contradicting what the OWNERS of the property in question are saying..."NYS Canal property has many unsafe dams within it". It's time to tell them the truth, and stop supporting this dangerous path.


Sorry for the long reply. Sorry you have been treated so badly for simply “telling the truth” about safety. Worse yet, sorry that you live in an area where citizens have been turned into sheep and can't think for themselves. Choosing instead to follow those who have no clue how much danger they have placed their neighbors in with their absurd rhetoric. I am still hopeful the lesson learned here is that EACH of us does their own thinking and stop letting others spread a false narrative of safety in our communities. I also hope that we don't learn that the "hard way".
« Last Edit: January 03, 2020, 04:29:33 am by Michael Caswell »

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Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
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70 People in the Rochester area viewed this ECNA Post in just under 3 weeks.. and not ONE reply to this post. This is a damn picture of the state of the NYS Canal System. The owner's and caretakers of this National Heritage treasure have stated that the public is in danger, the canal is failing and more than ONE THIRD of it has to be fixed before a serious breach & flood occur.

And those statements are met with Public Silence?

Worse yet... there is an active element in our community who is trying to KEEP the canal system from being repaired... and no one says boo?

Seems no one cares about Public Safety, or feels it must be "someone else's problem".

And no members of the Stop the Canal Clear Cut Group felt they could muster up a response to NY State's biggest Public Safety nightmare.

So once again it is the voices of only TWO people against an army of folks who simply want to ignore safety and instead talk about how trees are helping the environment. Can I ask a simple question?


Michael Caswell

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I posted this to the Fairport NEXTDOOR.COM web site just before Christmas.  And a good many folks read it, we got 10 smiley faces, which means, I guess, that they agreed with it.

I'm not a fan of Nextdoor these days, they seem to have lost their direction, and important topics are like school taxes and leaking canal problems, are met with wimpish moderators, intend on protecting nextdoor advertising revenues, rather than nextdoor residents.

Here's the post --

Michael Caswell , 118

It won’t happen here! We don’t have a problem. Fear mongering. All the experts are wrong.

I’ve heard all these comments over the past couple of years, as we have lived in limbo thanks to a few people who think trees are more important than peoples lives. They slowed up the Canal Corporation’s Earthen Embankment Integrity Project and everyone living west of the canal has been put in danger of flood.
Our 60 feet high Earthen Embankment Dam, (the ‘hill’ you live beside) has been designated a High Hazard risk dam by Dam Engineers. All that is needed is a really good rain storm, a spillway to clog with a log, and the canal could flood over the top, causing a breach and releasing 200 million gallons of water onto Jefferson Ave, Crystal Springs residents.
Thankfully, the Canal Corporation is now preparing to finally clear away the vegetation that is hindering inspections and vital repairs to a very neglected dam that had no maintenance done in seventy years.

I think you’ll find work will commence shortly after the winter weather has declined. This summer we will see a canal with a fully restored embankment. Regular inspections using drones will commence, and you can rest, assured of your safety at last.

Here are two earthen dams that have collapsed in the past week.
South Carolina Flooding: Dam Breach, Triggers Full Scale Evacuation. Nine drowned.

Thousands evacuated after part of dam collapses in England

See  for facts and articles.
Attachment with no description
South Carolina Flooding: Dam Breach Triggers Full Scale Evacuation

At least nine people have died and more than 200 rescues in historic flood waters have been made in what officials are calling a “thousand year” storm.
26 Dec · 44 neighborhoods in Crime & Safety