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Topic Summary

Posted by: Doug K
« on: December 07, 2018, 11:17:28 am »

It has come to the attention of the ECNA that a group fighting against Erie Canal Embankment Repair has been WITHHOLDING information sent from their OWN Hydrology Expert that is critical to understanding this Erie Canal Embankment Project and their own group "charter". This refusal to post the information on their Facebook page appears to be a blatant attempt to keep critical information from their OWN group members that would no doubt result in many ending their support & leaving the group. The information is in direct conflict to what this group has claimed since their inception and would help many to understand the real TRUTH of this project, and how necessary repairs are.

This group, calling itself the Stop the Clear Cut (STCC), has sought out experts regarding this project and posted that information on a Facebook site. They have continually denied the SAFETY aspects of this Canal Corporation Repair Project, and have countless Facebook posts dedicated to spreading false information regarding exactly what these Canal Embankments should be called. The STCC has vacillated constantly between levee, hillside, and most recently streambank & riverbank when describing what the "experts" have stated is classified as an Embankment Dam.

The STCC simply refuses to accept the fact these are really Dams because it doesn’t fit with their rhetoric.

Their latest EXPERT, Dr. Dave Rosgen from Wildland Hydrology, has been quoted as another “credible source” to weigh in on whether it's better to have Trees along the Erie Canal Embankments or is Grass a better Embankment cover. A regular grass covering is the goal of the NY Canal Corp and it's parent, the NY Power Authority. The STCC group has stated they believe "Stream & Riverbank Science" is a better fit than Embankment Dam science for the Erie Canal, after posting some information they felt was beneficial to their cause received from Dr. Rosgen. But it’s all a ruse!

NEWS FLASH – December 8, 2018

The ECNA has recently uncovered the REAL truth regarding this Trees vs Grass question. It was sent to Leadership of the Stop the Clear Cut Group BY THEIR OWN EXPERT. We are posting that email here for ALL to see, including the STCC Membership as it appears the STCC is going to hide this from members. We would have rather posted to the STCC FB page, but it's gone "private" even though this whole project revolves around Public Safety. And as some may know, the STCC does NOT allow members who have "differing viewpoints" to join their Group.

Here's the Letter sent from Dr.Rosgen to Harvey Gross, who is associated with Leadership of the STCC Group

Anyone who is a MEMBER of the Stop the Clear Cut Group should be asking themselves only ONE question... "Do I want to be part of a group that deceives & suppresses information to it's own members?" The STCC group has called out the ECNA for "not playing fair", in the past. But the facts are clear, they are the guilty ones by not being "fair" by trying to bury information that would show the REAL truth to their members.

Why didn't the Stop the Clear Cut group post their own "expert's" recent email on their Facebook or Google websites?

Why suppress information stating that GRASS is the BEST covering for Erie Canal Embankments?

Why would the STCC hold back such CRITICAL information from those they represent or the Public?

Your guess is as good as mine... but I have a feeling we ALL know why.

Most folks agree it would be wonderful to keep Trees along the Erie Canal Trailway. UNFORTUNATELY the trees are slowly destroying the INTEGRITY & SAFETY of the Embankment Dams below the trail and anything contrary to that previous statement is just another LIE. The belief that trees are a better covering is being spread by this group who seems MORE intent on perpetuating a myth than seeking the TRUTH.

The truth is simply stated; Trees Kill Dams!

And the EXPERT for the Stop the Clear Cut Group is in TOTAL agreement with that truth.

Posted by: Michael Caswell
« on: November 28, 2018, 02:49:54 pm »

I wrote to Dr David Rosgen and he replied.

Here is the correspondence.

From: Michael Caswell []
Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2018 8:29 AM
Subject: For the attention of Dr David Rosgen

Dr Rosgen
I note Harvey and Elizabeth Agte's group (Stop The Clear Cut) have contacted you as a possible advocate for their mission.
This group of people have blocked the NYPA (New York Power Authority) NYCC (new York Canal Corp) with a court injunction to stop the vegetation removal project in the three towns of Brighton, Pittsford and Perinton NY.
They persuaded  Professor Donald H Gray to sign a testimony stating trees were good for the embankments of the canal, offering stability etc. etc.
When I read his testimony, I felt there was something basically wrong because it flew in the face of the ASDSO, USACE, FEMA and NYDEC guidelines for embankment dams.  So I wrote to Dr Gray and asked him if he could show me any of his papers where it stated trees helps prevent erosion, and he sent me back his article on trees and levees.
So, I then asked him to explain to me the difference between an earthen embankment dam and a levee, and here is his reply.
Note in particular his statement ----
“I don’t know of any earth dams where woody vegetation was purposely planted or allowed to grow on a face of the dam.“

When I pointed out. to Dr Gray that his affidavit was referring to levees and he had not been told this was an earthen embankment dam with a serious vegetation problem and had not been inspected for over 20 years, he rushed to seek legal advice.  The STCC had conveniently omitted to tell him that this was a dam holding up millions of gallons of water, directly over a built up residential area with hundreds of properties and a school in harm's way.
The NYPA's recent inspection by a dam engineer which rated it as a class 3 Hazard dam, and noted that further inspection was impossible because of the dense vegetation which they recommended should be removed.
You can see the state of this embankment here
It is also worth mentioning that the great majority of the vegetation here is junk Cottonwood, Amur Honey suckle, bittersweet vines, swallow-wort, and black locust, all invasive, or regulated by NYDEC.  The Cottonwoods are particularly dangerous because they are weak limbed, prone to toppling and compromising the embankment, a very dangerous situation on a 100 year old structure that has seen NO maintenance in seventy years.  The slopes are very steep, badly designed, there are no toe drains and leak abound everywhere.
One leak was so bad, a huge swamp was at the base of the embankment, right behind an apartment complex. It had a forest of cat tails growing there that was over 50 feet across. Back in the spring of this year the NYPA pounded 45' long sheets of steel into the crest of the embankment for a 200 foot length to stop the flow of water and shore up this mess.   I reckon it must have cost at least half a million dollars.
I hope I can persuade you not to support this group. They have cost the taxpayers a great deal of money, and put thousands of people's lives at risk.  The removal of vegetation on the canal is vital to the safety of the folks living below this nightmare. Much work is scheduled, like new toe drains, root removal, regrading steep slopes, filling in gouges and restoring spillways and culvert etc. etc. The work is ongoing in all other areas except where the STCC has persuaded town supervisors to mount this injunction. 
If you'd like to see this for yourself, I'd be glad to show you around in person or on Facetime.
Thank you.

Michael Caswell
Erie Canal Neighbors Association

Here is his reply
On Nov 28, 2018, at 11:45 AM, Dave Rosgen <> wrote:

Michael,  My research data and model represents lateral streambank erosion rates observed along stream systems and canals associated with (or without) riparian vegetation.   My data, however, does not reflect on a Dam embankment with a differential head influencing pore water pressure processes. 
Where cottonwood trees have been removed along embankments of irrigation canals, the results of such have increased bank erosion rates and required rock rip rap to offset the accelerated erosion of the embankment material.  It sounds like there are two different issues here related to vegetation influence.  If you have invasive vegetation along diversion canals or streambanks, spot spraying and planting of willows or other native woody vegetation to replace the invasive species is often recommended.  Willows also can out-compete many invasive plants without losing the bank stability associated with the effective rooting character of woody vegetation. 

Your dam face, however, is a different problem where head pressure can cause native material fill breach.  My previous recommendations were based on canal and stream channel processes only.  If wind-related wave action causes embankment erosion of the dam, surface protection of the dam face (including the toe) is normally required involving rock or material to dissipate flow energy.  It is important to identify erosional processes related to embankment failures, then design solutions that offset the risk of failure mechanics that address the cause of potential failure.  Soil mechanics must be investigated on earthen dams to help identify such failure mechanics and erosional processes and associated risks. 

My discussion was meant not to defend or support extreme views (or take sides), but to extend facts and research results on the role of vegetation related to streambank erosion related to streams and canal embankments.  I would not support the removal of  woody vegetation along stream channels and/or canals based on my research data of such. 

Dam embankments of native fill represent different processes and as such, vegetation can represent  a risk to stability due to water piping and positive pore water pressure failures. 

I hope this clarification will help in the proposed decisions to be made. 

And finally-

From: Michael Caswell []   12.52 pm nov 28 2018


Your findings explain everything perfectly, and are in total agreement with Prof Gray's stand.  He describes the effect of lateral erosion of canal embankments (not embankment dams) and streams as 'scour'. Of course it makes sense that the tree roots would assist in preventing erosion in this situation.

However, a earthen embankment dam suffers from 'head pressure' and is a completely different scenario than a canal embankment channel. Unfortunately the STCC group fails to understand the difference, so I'm glad you pointed it out to them.

This confirms the stand of the NYPA, FEMA, ASDSO etc. who all state ' No trees on an embankment dam - only grass'.

Many thanks

Mike Caswell
Posted by: Doug K
« on: November 27, 2018, 06:07:12 pm »

Expert Witness? That term doesn't apply here.

Not once in Mr. Rosgen's reply does he use the term Embankment Dam when describing the "better" solution he's proposing...  he uses the term stream bank. So now the Erie Canal is back to being a natural stream that some person, who owns a business in Hydrology located in COLORADO, can somehow become an EXPERT on with a letter? It's unbelievable how far these folks will REACH to try and find a "truth" that fits their agenda.. and rhetoric. Seriously, is there no one in this STCC that uses the "Voice of Reason" when proof-reading?

Here's Mr. Agte writes: "A state agency recently classified the canal as a DAM, and is using guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and Association of State Dam Safety Engineers related to this reclassification as justification for their actions. The consensus among these experts is that trees have no place on embankments, as their root systems can cause seepage and potentially lead to erosion and potential embankment failure."

Then he goes on to add: "There are others who believe that the trees that have been there for decades, provide support and stability to the embankment and provide important habitat to fish, wildlife and pollinators."

By his own statement he is placing the Experts & Science behind Dam Engineering directly against "simple beliefs" of a handful of "others".

No supporting data, no science, just a belief.

So in order to stick with this simple belief doesn't a person need to hold that all the science supporting Dams is just a lie? To simply dismiss the possibility of a catastrophe "because a flood hasn't happened yet" really does an injustice to all the science that went into Embankment Remediation, what is done to PREVENT the POSSIBILITY.

But that has been the rally cry of the STCC since this whole Embankment SAFETY Project started.. "If it's Not broke Don't Fix It"

People.. the EXPERTS ARE SAYING the Erie Canal is BROKEN and needs to be FIXED. Hence the Dam REMEDIATION Project.. look it up.

And from the Engineer and SCIENCE perspective... statistically the LONGER the time is BETWEEN events the MORE likely the event will reoccur in the NEAR TERM. So once again.. how does one justify choosing "feelings & beliefs" when the science says those beliefs are "unfounded & unsupported" in so many ways?

Trees ARE killing the Erie Canal!!!
Later in this letter it appears Mr. Agte has somehow miss-typed the word DAM and has a "double and" instead... which TOTALLY changes the sentence meaning. And this is when he could have asked the Mr. Rosgen DIRECTLY.. Do you know anyone with experience KEEPING TREES on Embankment Dams? That would have shown ALL of us what kind of expert he is.

Here's what was written in the letter:
Mr. Agte Original Sentence: "I know we are talking about a man made waterway and and embankment but I am curious what your thoughts are on this clear cut approach or if there is someone you can direct me to who has experience with this issue?"

Maybe what Mr. Agte meant to type? "I know we are talking about a man made waterway and DAM embankment but I am curious what your thoughts are on this clear cut approach or if there is someone you can direct me to who has experience with this issue?"

Like I've said ALL along on this ECNA Forum... Words Matter... especially the "omitted" ones.
Posted by: Michael Caswell
« on: November 27, 2018, 05:15:43 pm »

What do I think?

It amazes me what lengths these people will go to promoting this false agenda.  Not once have I heard or seen any comments regarding the very expensive repair that was carried out on the earthen embankment dam at The Oxbow in Fairport earlier in the year.

Last winter, we noticed a huge soggy swamp had formed at the base of the embankment, right behind the large apartment complex. It had been this way for many years, as demonstrated by the expanse of the cattail patch growing profusely there. 

Unfortunately, the embankment was so overgrown, that it was impossible to thoroughly inspect the slope to see exactly where it was leaking.

The NYPA decided the best course of action was to hammer in 45 feet long steel sheets into the crest of the embankment for a length of over 200 feet.
Many years prior, they had done a similar repair, but only used 25 feet long sheets, and this obviously had not permanently resolved the problem.


You can see the extent of vegetation growth here, which makes it impossible to conduct inspections.

And what did Professor Donald Gray say about DAMS and LEVEES?   
see here

“I don’t know of any earth dams where woody vegetation was purposely planted or allowed to grow on a face of the dam.“ 
When I pointed out to Dr Gray that he was indeed referring to an embankment dam and that I felt he had not been fully informed of this (or the state of it) he sought legal advice because of his incorrect testimony filed with the court injunction instigated by the STCC group.

Hopefully, the STCC latest expert witness Dr  Rosgen will look a little deeper at the facts before taking sides.
Posted by: Doug K
« on: November 27, 2018, 03:05:37 pm »

Well here we go again... some folks just can't seem to take the TRUTH and learn from it.

Folks, We are back to "redefining" what the Erie Canal is, well at least if you have read the latest "information" from the Stop the Clear Cut Facebook Group. Now that have changed tack as their "last expert" has become very silent on this project and actually has supported the TRUTH that the Erie Canal is lined for 122 miles with Embankment Dams. The last expert was located in 2017 when they were referring to Embankment Dams as Levees. And found Dr. Donald Gray to say something that they liked about trees & water until he recanted in 2018.

Now they have a new expert on Stream Bank Erosion management who's weighed in and told this STCC group what they want to hear... of course based on their somewhat guarded description of the Erie Canal topography by guessed it, the Leadership Team from the STCC, ne: Agte & Company.

There's a lengthy description of the Erie that tries to omit the word Dam if possible, even see where there is a "double and" connected to the word Embankment.. maybe should read and DAM EMBANKMENT. Raised Embankment was used.. but wouldn't a PICTURE have done better?

I've include a recent post from the STCC with a few "markups" so you go judge for yourself which statement is closer to the TRUTH.
1) Natural waterway... Not.
2) Natural streambank... Not.
3) Man Made Embankment Dam... Bingo

So the same STCC group, who has recently complaining about the NYCC going "back to square one" on the project, did the EXACT SAME THING..with a "new Stream Bank Expert". Those in the ECNA, NYCC, NYPA, and beyond simply ask... "Isn't it just easier to BELIEVE the TRUTH instead of having to make it up over and over?

Why does this matter?
Many have complained the issues our communities have regarding this project and coming to a consensus on SAFETY, are all related to COMMUNICATION. In that spirit I wrote this forum post so that we can start RIGHT AWAY getting at the TRUTH out when NEW information comes along. It's time to simply "call out" those who either manipulate the truth for their own ends, or in the case of the STCC.. simply "make up" a truth that fits.

The EXPERTS say Trees are NOT allowed on Embankment Dams.. sorry, not MY truth, it's the EXPERTS'... Learn to Live with it please.

This post is also written in opposition to what continues to be a campaign of deception, deflection and half-truths by a group of people who simply refuse to believe the facts, the truth and NYCC admonishment for them to START doing so from the Governor of NY & his EXPERT on all things Erie Canal... Brian Stratton.

These folks have been told time and again by an array of people from Dam Expert to the Governor of NY and the HEAD of the Entire NY Canal Corporation that their "expert information" is incorrect, they are NOT looking at the respected science and they should understand that the project is 100% in Compliance with all regulations. They continue to simply "ignore" all these written replies, instead simply stating they "just don't believe it"... and so the fight goes on.

And they POST the replies on the STCC Facebook page for some odd reason, thinking it shows their "defiance" to the TRUTH, I guess. Go read:

So NOW what do you think?