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Why does Environmental Activism make some people act irrationally?

This is the most perplexing question the Erie Canal Neighbors Association has yet been able to answer after more than two years. To be exact it’s been two years, six months, and twenty-nine days since a small group of Pittsford & Perinton residents formed a group on Facebook called Stop the Canal Clear-cut (STCC).

That group’s sole mission was supposedly “environmental” in nature, but has slowly turned into individuals whining  about loss of shade on the Empire Trail and how much the group distains the new owners of the NYS Canal Corporation, NYPA, or New York Power Authority. The group has zero credible data to support their claims that “nothing is wrong with the canal embankments”

In 2017 NYPA inherited a Canal System with one hundred twenty miles of “unsafe, unmaintained & uninspected Earthen Embankment Dams. When they offered to take the NYSCC from the prior owner, NYS Thruway Authority, they knew this work had to be done and were up to the challenge. All of these “raised, water-impounding” embankments would need clearing, across New York State.

So they announced the work of clearing dams, which meant TREES would be removed, as it was the TREES causing the problems with Public Safety he sustainability of the Erie Canal. They were very clear, the canal system was a danger, and they needed to fix it by “controlling vegetation”.
They started with a Dam Restoration Project, which has evolved now into an Embankment Integrity Program for Canal Safety.

You can read about that work here:

Well, that was it, the NYSCC had mentioned TREE removal which brought out everyone and anyone who ever wanted to “Save a Whale” to a new environmental cause, and it was time to save trees. The Canal Corporation was accused of “clear-cutting” the embankments for profit at first. Then the reasons for tree removal were questioned next, some citing that the canal hadn’t broken from any tree related issues ever. The STCC group convinced 3 towns to bring an Environmental Concern to Court to stop the “tragedy” that would occur if trees were removed.

Somehow the only thing this STCC group really managed to do, was to lie convincingly to the public about the safety issue. They flatly deny it ever existed and still do to this day believe “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

So the question here is why do rational people get so perplexed when the truth is contrary to their own beliefs. Saving trees on Embankment Dams is UNHEARD of in the Earthen Dam Safety world. Yet this group, when confronted with that truth, simply chose to ignore it.

They didn’t want to believe the TREES they wanted to hug, could be potential deadly killers of a community.

They suddenly acted contrary to human nature, which says “safety is good”, and instead the group’s leadership acted contrary to rational thinking, they decided to fight against a Public Safety project on the Erie Canal that they knew was fixing dams, but would share their group.

Think of removing trees from Embankment Dams as an insurance policy, against a potential flood. While earthquakes and terror plots could take out an earthen dam quite easily, the NEXT probable cause is Embankment Failure due to improper vegetation. Having trees on dams where only GRASS is allowed is a recipe for disaster. Trees cause leaks, or the technical term “piping” which creates water flow on earthen dams where it is not wanted, and can cause a slip of the entire dam slope if not corrected. That has all been documented here on our website

So do these STCC people also think they don’t need Car Insurance because they didn’t have an accident last month? Probably not, as most people are all over insured. We get Life Insurance because we might die too young. We get Health Insurance in case the thing that made us die to young was caused by a medical issue. We get Long-Term Care Insurance in case the medical issue our Health Insurance paid for causes us to need rehab care to recover. The list goes on… Homeowners Insurance, Dental, Travel, Pet.

Do those who subscribe to this STCC philosophy not buy Homeowners Insurance because their house didn’t catch fire yesterday or have someone trip on their front steps last week?

We, as humans, do tend to worry ourselves to the point of poverty, trying to insure against anything that might happen in our lives, well some of us perhaps. But for an “environmental” group to take a stand that the Canal System is “just fine the way it is” is almost impossible to comprehend given the single fact that the OWNERS & CARETAKERS of the NYS Canal System have stated it is unsafe, needs repair, and they are prepared to do just that.

What could be worse for the environment than a flood?

So back to the original question: Why does Environmental Activism make some people act irrationally?

We all know everyone loves trees, but Erie Canal Neighbors deserve to feel SAFE in their own homes. They also do NOT deserve to have UNSAFE embankments in their backyards or neighborhoods. They should not have to worry if the Canal Corporation will knock on their door and say they need to buy Flood Insurance. There’s should be a point where SAFETY matters more than SHADE… well at least for rational people.

While it may be very easy for some users of the Empire Trail (who believe they are environmentalist) to point at the trees along the trail and say they should stay.

The real issue is that those trees also block this groups LEADERS from seeing the actual condition of the embankment and the NEIGHBORS living BELOW those embankments who are in danger EVERY day from that unsafe Erie Canal dam.

But the STCC membership really doesn’t care about any of this, they are going to “hug those trees” even if it could mean their neighbors suffer or their Towns & Villages flood.

After all, they are doing it in the name of the “environment”.
If you can answer that one, PLEASE respond with a comments and tell us why...

Once again it's Ms. E. Agte to the "rescue", stating her case, twisting her own truth "just enough" to make it seem like it's fact. Here's the latest letter from this group to the Canal Corporation regarding their new Earthen Embankment Integrity Program, or EEIP as it's referred to.

Folks, read that program name AGAIN... Earthen Embankment Integrity Program. It's IMPORTANT later in this conversation.

Here's Ms. Agte's rant of the day about Canal Corp's plans regarding making Embankment Dams safe along the Erie Canal:

Now at the bottom of her letter is a rather remarkable twisting of the FACTS, but few will spot it. I underlined the statement in RED.

Ms. Agte INCORRECTLY states what this EEIP work being taken on by the owners of the Canal Corporation is all about. She stated this new EEIP effort is a "Tree Maintenance" program.... when in fact it is NOT.

The Earthen EMBANKMENT INTEGRITY Program is about maintenance of Erie Canal EMBANKMENT DAMS that are running though NY State.

It's about insuring those DAMS are properly cleared so much needed INSPECTIONS can take place. It's being done to insure the PUBLIC SAFETY of the majority of NY's population at risk of flooding with UNSAFE DAMS in their backyards. It's about fixing 100 year old earthen dams, not "manicuring" the trees that are causing the safety issues in the first place, suggesting that this is about "trees" shows just how far off-base this group & it's leadership has been.

If it was about "maintaining trees" the NYS Canal Corporation would have picked a Program Title that reflected that fact. Maybe something like "The Erie Canal Tree Trimming Program"

Sadly Ms. Agte once again has convinced the ECNA that she STILL doesn't really understand the problem, so why would anyone be interested in her solutions, or even her opinions? If you can answer that one, PLEASE respond with a comments and tell us why.

She truly can't see the REAL problems because of this sad truth, one that she has tried to make the forefront since Day 1. That it's really about UNSAFE DAMS that need repairs and certainly not about tree trimming...

There was a meeting... some were invited.

The presentation is online:


It's almost beyond comprehension what's been going on here, and I've been silent too long on what the REAL problem is with a group who's advocating for keeping trees on unsafe dams and ignoring the public safety nightmare the owners of those dams have.

It's not the groups fault that they can't see the "problem for the trees", it's the fault of the community around them for not being honest and trying to help them understand the issues isn't trees, it's about SAFETY.

Folks, the New York Canal Corporation, OWNERS of a very large piece of property in our state, have said their property has become a HAZARD to the community. It has 127 miles of unsafe earthen dams or embankments as they're known by. For years they were owned by a division of NY State that considered the Canal an "anchor" and money pit. They were not allowed to fix issues, they were not allowed to admit they had dams, and that those dams leaked. I know this from FIRST HAND experience.

Now there are NEW owners of the Canal Corporation, and all that land. They are a safety conscious group, who understand dam ownership, dam regulations and requirements as an owner to report UNSAFE conditions to all local governments. These new owners want to fix the problem, and simply stated, "let all that happened before,  go".

Talking about bad dams and how they got that way serves no purpose if you plan to FIX them and insure they stay safe for generations to come.

And then, almost on queue, some local group steps in, who decided that the OWNERS of the dam were lying about safety of their property.

This Stop the Canal Clear-cut group says there is NO safety issue, it's a ploy to harvest trees, and that the public should join in their "crusade" to save us from these terrible new owners who want to take away shade. Not one mention of the fact that they give our communities safety from dams flooding us, the real problem. Not one thought that just maybe the owners of the property might know a little more than they do about these unsafe dams, dam safety and dam hazard ratings.

Nope, the LEADERS of this group know way more than the NYS Canal Corporation, Owners of the Erie Canal,  even about their own property and public safety.

Just ask them... because they have ZERO expert testimony to support this "these dams are safe" claim. You see, these STCC leaders have walked on that dam for years... it never broke before. It's safe to them, just because it hasn't broken yet it seems. That's probably what EVERY community says AFTER their earthen dams break and flood homes and lives away.

These Facebook group leaders have no expertise, have never researched dam safety or regulations and are going on what they call their "intuition & gut feeling".

I am NOT making this up people, the ECNA has been documenting the antics of this group since we started. This is a very dangerous game this group is playing.

But back to the REAL problem with a question, Why would ANY community want to support this group's ideas?

They are basically playing Russian Roulette with the lives of neighborhoods, friends and family with the Erie Canal as the GUN, and the Trees as the BULLETS.

Yet the community around them says NOTHING. In fact they are trying to appease them with inclusion into other "environmental" concerns of the area. No one challenges this groups "facts", which are few and far between. Not one Community Leader has challenged their LEADERSHIP on the safety issue being raised. Nope, like sheep many chant "trees are good" because this group can't understand that trees on dams "aren't good".

And within the STCC group there are few who have tried to enlighten their leadership and their reward is the same. They get "expelled" from the Facebook group, voted off Agte & Maier's Island. Really? It would seem that if you join the Stop the Canal Clear-cut group you'd better "check" your brain at the door. You won't need it inside, as you MUST think like the Founder & Co-Founders think or you're done.

Go look at these Canal Embankment dams... there are literally thousands of bullets to use. One 80' tall tree falling over on a a 30' tall embankment is going to cause a flood.

This STCC group just wants to ignore that fact, ignore that the trees have reduced all these embankments to Dam Hazard Ratings bordering HIGH hazard (some are there already). There are 100 miles of dams that still need repair across the state. Some of the worst ones, the most UNSAFE and tallest/longest are in Pittsford, Perinton, and Fairport... and still many in the western section that was partially cleared already.

And these are ALL unsafe dams if they have ANY trees on them.

If an Erie Canal Embankment Dam fails in Monroe County the Canal Corporation will simply say they tried to warn us.

And they will also mention that instead of believing the property OWNERS, who stated the danger and gave "Constructive notice" to all communities about the impending problems, the CITIZENS of many communities decided instead to follow the ramblings of a few "pseudo-environmentalists" who didn't understand the problems with dam ownership.

People will die, homes will wash away, peoples lives will be ruined. And many will finally understand the truth about the Facebook Stop the Canal Clear-cut Group... that they didn't know the first thing about Embankment Dam Safety.

What's the first thing about dam safety you ask?

Recognizing that the OWNERS of Erie Canal EMBANKMENTS probably know way more than we do about their own damn safety problems... pun intended.

It's time for Fairport & Perinton TOWN & VILLAGE LEADERS to stand up to the BLIGHT this group is causing. Public safety should never be boiled down to a "popularity contest" or be controlled by people who have no clue what side of a dam is unsafe?

It's time for REAL leadership in our communities, isn't it folks?


Sadly once again the sheer ignorance of this group is showing.

Where is the waterway in these pictures? I see a road, cars, and flowers. No unsafe Embankments, no Flood Potential for neighbors living below. It's amazing that such an important bit of FACT would be left out. It's the NY State CANAL Corporation, not the D.O.T. folks.

Of course they can plant flowers next to roads.. roads don't break and flood people. But then again these folks can't seem to tell the difference.

Their plan to help the Canal wasn't to adopt a section of the Empire Trail to keep clean, they adopted a local Roadway instead. And now they want everyone to believe that what's used for beautifying asphalt roads & cars, can be easily & safely used for a waterway, dams and neighbors living below.

One word comes to mind... Bullshit!

How long will the neighbors of these people tolerate a group that is working to make their community UNSAFE?

It seems in Fairport, Pittsford & Perinton...that answer is simple:

Until Erie Canal Embankments FAIL and someone dies in a truly sad that a community has no conscience.

Mandatory Flood Insurance is now a VERY REAL POSSIBILITY for Erie Canal Neighbors living BELOW unsafe, tree-covered, Embankments.

You can read more here:'s-answer-to-leaving-trees-on-embankments-flood-insurance/

It took awhile but one of the BIGGEST concerns that the ECNA has had all along with this Unsafe Embankment work appears to be taking shape... Mandatory Flood Insurance for some Erie Canal Neighbors in the near term is now possible.

If you have taken any time to look over this new Earthen Embankment Integrity Program (EEIP) draft Generic Environmental Impact Study (dGEIS)  you will see, for the first time, the mention of Flood Insurance Rate Maps and Flood Insurance Studies. Now this is in response to the list of 15 potential impacts resulting from the New York State Canal Corporation EEIP work.

As an Engineer for many years, I can tell you that this is one of those "read between the lines" moments. If the NYSCC is fixing these embankments, making them safer through tree removal and reshaping the slopes, then the question is two-fold. What happens during the clearing process & what happens after the trees are removed? 

Equally important to understand is the potential for a third option: What if the community were to STOP these unsafe embankments from being cleared?

Since these are unsafe Earthen Dams, then the answer is clear... Flood Inundation Mapping WILL occur at some time and that is spelled out in this draft as you can see below. It is in response to the 5th "potential" impact this program may see as it tackles the job of clearing 100 years of "poor maintenance".

Here's the first 5 of the 15 EEIP Impacts... note #5

And the solution to each of these impacts is spelled out in a later dGEIS section...

Do you see those words: Flood Insurance Rate Maps & Flood Insurance Studies? Now why would these two "remedies" make it into the list is the bigger question. If dams are being worked on there is a temporary FEMA Flood Zone rating that can be used while REPAIR work is ongoing, and there are plenty of websites that explain all this quite well. You can check out some of these below.

But the better question, in light of an active protest group working to stop these safety repairs in the Rochester area, would be this:

What if an Unsafe Canal Embankment Dam is NOT properly repaired and allowed to remain covered with trees and a "live threat" to the surrounding community for a potential flood?

The answer has now been made clear perhaps, by these statements in the dGEIS. These canal dams, clear & safe ones or those that are unsafe and covered with trees, may now start to see REAL work on identifying the Flood Hazard Zones, Flood Inundation Mapping and that information would eventually be passed along to FEMA to see if residents living below those embankments will need to have MANDATORY Flood Insurance through the National Flood Insurance Plan

And it's not that hard to understand that living below SAFE dams will reduce the need for a Flood Insurance, while living below UNSAFE dams would require those homeowners to protect themselves until the flood danger is mitigated.

So just a word of caution to those who think that trees should stay on canal embankments because they are pretty or provide shade.

There may be a COST to keeping embankment trees coming very soon. The cost will be National flood insurance policies which normally are 3-5 times higher than a normal homeowner policy. Those costs will be paid by canal neighbors living BELOW these tree-covered dams and ALSO in the miles of Flood Zones extending beyond those embankments. It will hurt many financially, except the US Government, who will be more than happy to sell a flood insurance policy, after all the National Flood Plan is starving for money right now.

And also remember that all those "guests" of the NYS Canal Corporation, who are walking along the top of the embankments on the Empire Trail, can protest all they want about keeping trees. After all, it's not THEIR money that will pay for these policies, it's those folks living below the trail, and these unsafe embankments.

Unless of course the public & Erie Canal neighbors start to get involved before it's too late, and it hits you where it hurts most... your wallets

Yes, they have, at last, got the idea.  Look at this post on their Facebook page from one member.

BUT!  Wouldn't you have to cut down all the trees first?

Perinton Community Discussion / Aerial Photos of Fairport
« Last post by Michael Caswell on June 28, 2020, 09:24:09 am »
Olde Orchard

This was taken about 1980.

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