Author Topic: A Homeowners perspective of Trees living on Canal Embankments  (Read 17 times)

Doug K

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Saw about 30 geese fly in to land for the night on the Erie Canal, just about at Dusk. They flew low from west to east, hovering for a moment just behind the house as they landed in the couple feet of water still inside. Its the first time my wife and I have actually seen this as for many years we only heard the honking behind the trees that covered the view completely. We could barely see the trail from only 40' away.

Then along comes the Canal Corporation and it's Embankment Integrity work and life changed for us... just like our view of the geese.

Our property has 400 feet of Erie Canal Embankment Dam running along our south border. Some of the property is only 6' under the FULL canal waterline, most of the eastern end of the property is ALWAYS under the water at the bottom of the canal. I have painted a tree in our yard, on the border of NYS Canal land BLUE to show where the waterline would be if the Earthen Embankment wasn't there holding the water back. You can see it in the background to the right.

Twenty-five years ago the NY Thruway Authority & NY Canal Corporation stood in our yard and said the "water problem" we had wasn't "their water" coming from the canal. They couldn't explain why our yard got wet as quicksand but they know it wasn't their problem or cause. My wife and I looked at each other, pointed at all the water behind the tree-covered hill behind us and said"That's not leaking here?" They said no and left. So we did what we could and turned our soggy ground into a winter ice rink.

When we built our tiny berm... it about 24" at the highest point, we thought we migh get a little water in the bottom of the swale. It starts at ground level at the canal end and slope downhill to the north. We scraped about 6" off the top to make the north end berm. Of course that was after we removed 50 dead trees from this waterlogged  piece of land.

We left two trees up close to the new pond... one on the edge of the berm on one end. The other tree was about 10' away from the north end of the pond and is going to hold a light one day. It's base is about 18" below water level but far away from the berm soil. Can you guess which tree fell over with all this heavy rain and wind?

Why the one near the edge of the water of course. The roots, pulled right out from under the water, tree fell to the east and luckily is resting against a few more trees until I can get in there to clear it. I left that tree there just to see if it would make it, it was going to have saturated roots which is known to kill trees by suffocation of their roots.

It died, and now it's falling over. Just want the Canal Corporation has been saying about trees on water retention embankments..go figure huh?

Flash forward 24 years later and the "new" Canal Corporation, under direction of the New York Power Authority has placed 3 leak stakes in our yard after the recent inspection they performed. That inspection was enabled because they also have cleared their property off after being an "absentee neighbor" for many years. They asked us if we wanted the leak fixed, they can do that sort of thing sometimes with steel plates. We like our ice pond so we will wait to see what happens with clear dams behind us. We don't want to lose this

To be honest most Erie Canal Neighbors, living below these dams, have now come to understand that the Canal Corp under direction of the Thruway, not only let their routine maintenance go they also have let their embankment dams deteriorate to the point of being High Hazard ratings and needing immediate repair. They denied any and all water problems as well. Now those issues are being addressed with the Embankment Integrity Program work under new direction from NYPA. This neighbor is glad for the changes. We can finally SEE the leak that has been a nightmare for us all these years until we built our new pond to hold a leaky canal at

What if that tree had uprooted on a bigger earthen embankment, like those along the Canal?