Erie Canal Neighbors Association

General Category => General ECNA Discussion => Topic started by: Doug K on March 22, 2019, 12:57:50 pm

Title: The Erie Canal Embankment Breach Flood Potential Explained
Post by: Doug K on March 22, 2019, 12:57:50 pm
Finally figured out a way to illustrate why the NY Canal Corporation's Embankment Integrity Program is so's all about the potential of the flood devastation if the Embankment were to breach. And that potential can be simply explained with water volume... and Erie Canal history.

The Erie Canal turned 200 years young in 2018, kind of sorta. It was started in 1817, and took 8 years to get built, the first time. The Erie Canal wasn't big by today's version that we see, it was a shallow, 4' deep by 40' wide trench full of stinky water. Finished in 1825, it opened up the West to pioneers and made NY State the gateway for low cost shipping & transport across the growing nation. Here's a website to see some great old pictures of the early canal as it transformed. Erie Canal enlargements walked hand in hand with an ever growing canal barges & shipping vessels.

The US quickly outgrew the Erie Canal and it's first major renovation started in the 1830s and ran through 1862. It nearly doubled the size of the waterway and also grew the many locks in length & width. Here's a few illustrations of the canal internal & external profile design of the first Canal Enlargement.


Erie Canal traffic grew and once again the State of NY planned yet another enlargement of the Erie. It would be so dramatic they renamed the waterway to the NY State Barge Canal. This "new" version was 3 times the original size in all ways, length, width and water depth. If you live along the waterway it's what we see today.

In all of these eras of the Erie-Barge Canal, there have been constants, like canal breaches that caused great flooding events. They are well documented in stories and old newspapers around our area. There are lots of causes for Canal Embankment breaches, from animals to weather to simply aging around key embankment areas. There hasn't been a version of the Erie Canal over the past 200 years that hasn't had a leak or major flood.

But don't kid yourself, science & probability are saying the Erie Canal embankments are in need of another era of change... not to widen the canal, but to clear the overgrowth and neglect that has come with less commercial use of the canal in it's modern era where trucks & trains move product, not boats. The neglect the Erie has experienced is a fact, verified by the new owners of the Erie Canal, that most routine maintenance has been lacking on the waterway for some time now, and NYPA intends to fix the embankment safety issues that has caused.

And if it breaks again the flooding will be worse than anyone can "ever remember".. just like we see on TV news in the Midwest.

Look at how much MORE water there is now.


Everyone who is old enough to remember the last breach of the canal in Bushnell's Basin will say that was "so much water". Folks, that was coming out of a small hole in the bottom of the canal bed that flowed out a culvert that was used to carry a creek under the Erie. It was a pretty "controlled" flood event and the culvert most likely provided limits to the size of the "hole" that was letting the Erie Canal drain out. That particular area around Bushnell's Basin also has TWO canal Flood Gates that also may have helped limit the amount of water that was lost.

Many point at this and say "men caused that flood, the canal won't flood if men don't touch it". History proves them wrong.. unsafe, improperly maintained & managed earthen embankment dams will break, it's just a matter of time... and the Erie canal has a history.


An Erie Canal Embankment Breach will not be nearly as nice to an area that it will flood as the 1974 culvert flood. It will not stop at cement walls of a culvert and head down the wash of an area creek. It will try to widen the breach as large as possible as the water washes away the Embankment dam wall along with people's homes and lives. It will clear everything downstream of the breach for a few miles or more... who knows how deep as that depends on how tall & wide the Dam section is that breaks.

Some in our communities along the Erie Canal will accuse the ECNA of "scare-mongering" with this posting...but those folks fail to even consider our safety, choosing a path that says "if it's not broke don't fix it". The Erie Canal is broken, easy to see by the extensive repairs made in 2018 and recent Embankment Inspections that show major safety issues and the potential for Dam failure.

Sadly these same people fighting the Embankment Program also fail to hear the owners of the Erie Canal saying that it is broken. That is why the New York Power & the Canal Corporation are spending the money to fix the Erie Canal. "Significant flood events will occur"... that is what experts say about what will happen without proper Earthen Dam Remediation in our country.

And what does science say?
As long as there is large woody vegetation growing on Earthen Embankment Dams there is a high risk of potential flooding... due to too many factors to list here.   

When will the Rochester community wake up and demand the NYCC Embankment Program does it's job, to make us all safe again, and anyone standing in the way of public safety is held accountable?

When will the Rochester area wake up & smell the coffee... it's never a smart idea to fight against Safety.
Title: Re: The Erie Canal Embankment Breach Flood Potential Explained
Post by: Erie Canaller on March 28, 2019, 01:01:05 pm
Wow, where do you find this stuff? Great pictures and like the way you guys tie all this together. Saw that you have a another website with lots more good . Is that going to replace this forum someday?

Pretty good idea to have something like this for a neighborhood that is as wide as New York. What's been needed for awhile is a way for Erie canal neighbors to be able to talk to each other and it seems like this might work, thank you.

Passing this along to friends in central NY, they might be interested in Little Falls.
Title: Re: The Erie Canal Embankment Breach Flood Potential Explained
Post by: Doug K on March 28, 2019, 01:52:38 pm
Thank you, pass the word along.

Pls take a look at the Main Forum Board and think about signing up as a member