Author Topic: What happens when Erie Canal Embankment Dams become over-saturated?  (Read 92 times)

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 788
  • Location: Brockport
    • ECNA US
Contrary to what some folks might be saying about Erie Canal Embankments, you really can't understand what affect having an Earthen Dam can have on neighboring properties, until you actually become a neighbor of the Erie Canal.

And not a neighbor living "above the waterline" but one that is actually having to deal with where all that water can go over the course of a "canal season".

If you are not a regular reader of the ECNA you should read this post to see how this discussion started. It's about the early Erie Canal dewatering that has occurred this year. Some communities located EAST of Genesee River have already seen an empty canal, while those living WEST of Rochester have a full one.

https://ecna.createaforum.com/the-stop-the-clearcut-argument/they-pulled-the-plug-really-early!/msg1352/#msg1352

In that last post it was mentioned how the Erie Canal's annual de-watering event, that happens around the end of November each year, is done to protect locks and other canal structures but also gives the Phreatic Line a rest. This phreatic line is basically the separation between the dry earth on top, and the heavily saturated earth below the Phreatic surface. That lower dirt is under constant leakage from the water being impounded inside the Erie Canal.

So what happens when the Phreatic Line get "super saturated", like when we see a hard rain?

The easy answer is... an Erie Canal Embankment Flood happens. Here's a few pictures of one we had here.











Now in the spirit of full disclosure & transparency, this is the tallest section of the almost 400' of Canal Embankment we are adjacent to. It is about 18-20 feet tall and the bottom of the canal is above the ground level you see. There are also three marked leaks that are being monitored by the NY State Canal Corporation staff on a regular basis.

But this oversaturated earthen dam issue exists, even on a smaller height dam section. The picture below is on the west side of our property and shows the EXACTLY the same issue... and this section has no marked leaks. I also deepened the Toe Drain myself by almost one foot to collect the water better and keep it from overrunning our driveway some 250' feet away.



So there you have it... flooding along the Erie Canal is real, and most times the people walking on the top trail never see it...because it's raining out.

It's a problem that Canal Neighbors have, along with tree-covered, unsafe embankments, all of which present a clear & present danger to those neighbors living below the waterline of the Erie Canal.

So those of you who are listening to Facebook groups tell you that the Erie Canal is safe, that there is nothing wrong with it and no danger in having tree-covered embankment dams running through our communities, I will tell you that those people do NOT consider the plight of the hundreds of adjacent neighbors living below these over-saturated earthen dams, or the urban crawl that has grown beyond these homeowners.

For a moment, just imagine a 80 foot tall tree growing on a 30 foot tall embankment that is over-saturated and unable to keep those tree roots securely in place. We all know what happens here... those trees with water-logged roots tend to blow over in a strong wind.

Now think of all that canal water pushing on that new hole from the inside, where a tree used to be. That's 875,000 gallons of water per 100' of canal length that is ready to plow through that cavity.

What do you think could happen if a hole suddenly appeared in the side of an Erie Canal Earthen Embankment?

More importantly... if the Canal Embankment Dam does breaks, will it flood your home?
« Last Edit: May 03, 2021, 03:35:08 am by Michael Caswell »

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 788
  • Location: Brockport
    • ECNA US
Something that people walking along the TOP of the Erie Canal Embankments rarely see... because most don't venture out to the Empire Trail in the Rain.

But "real" Erie Canal Neighbors deal with issues like this, every time a hard rain falls.

And this is EXACTLY why REAL Erie Canal Neighbors know better than to listen or believe Embankment Trail walkers, when they say the canal has "no problems".


https://youtu.be/8bXPBRNSJZI

This video was taken today July 13, 2014... along with this other video, of the Empire Trail washout running through our yard and into our basements. This one is from the new screen planting berm that seems to have too much water to hold back now


https://youtu.be/u42AR9kooLI

As a note, we have had to install over 500' of 8" runoff drain, dug out 300' of Embankment Toe Ditch ourselves, and have excavated about 8500 square feet of our property to hold the 90000 gallons of water a rainstorm or two may bring.

BTW...this pond is never normally full in July, it starts after October, when the Erie had been full for the season and really starts to seep out.



« Last Edit: July 13, 2021, 03:54:41 pm by Doug K »

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 788
  • Location: Brockport
    • ECNA US
If you are a Canal Neighbor, living adjacent to the Erie Canal, at the BASE of one of the 100s of miles of Earthen Embankments and have a water issue on your property, there is a solution to both water runoff issues and underground seepage.

After years of almost zero maintenance of it's earthen dams, the Canal Corporation is listening to it's neighbors and working to repair their earthen dams, along with all appurtenant structures that make up the Erie Canal system. They are not only clearing the invasive growth, to enable them to properly inspect for Dam Safety issues, they are also working to repair key parts of their embankment system and identify seeps & leaks.

Most notable for ALL canal neighbors is a properly working Toe of Slope DRAIN system. This includes the Toe Ditch, which is used to funnel water way from the Canal Embankment to local storm drains and eventually get all that water back to the aquifers.

In most cases the Toe Ditch is simply filled from many years of neglect, and the Canal Corporation can come to clean them out, set them back to the proper working depth, and insure that "their" water doesn't end up in your basements. In some cases the Canal Corporation will come to survey the property in question to assess how best to deal with runoff or seeps from a phreatic line that is causing leakage issues.

That is happening to one neighbor's property in the Brockport area, and will be documented as the repairs are made to the canal Toe Drainage there.


Here are the pictures of the staked area at the Toe of the Dam that will be transformed to connect a rather flat piece of property to the Tow Ditch which is about 80' away on both the west and east ends of this section of land


Looking EAST along the Earthen Embankment Dam




Looking WEST along the Earthen Embankment Dam



The work being done will connect the "flat" area of this property, to the two ends of the Toe Drain.

Note: This property was built before the Barge Canal was expanded in size and depth, it used to be "level" with the top of the original Erie Canal

There are also quite a few things that Canal Neighbors, living below the waterline can do, to help their waterlogged yards. Everything from redirecting gutter downspouts, and adding some drainage lines around their homes. This Canal Neighbor has managed to stop a constantly running basement sump pump, to one that only runs in the hardest rain events

If you would like more information on how to win the battle against Canal Seepage, post a reply to this message and you will be contacted directly about what can be done to address your water issues living below an earthen dam.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2021, 10:41:28 am by Doug K »

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 788
  • Location: Brockport
    • ECNA US
A call from the NYS canal Corporation on Monday, stating that they had a team ready to fix the embankment runoff issue here on our 400' long earthen dam, was followed by a visit.

A NYSCC Maintenance Team of about 9 showed up with several trucks on the Empire Trail behind our home yesterday. They greeted us and asked if we could explain our view of the run-off issue, just to correlate the work order from NYPA Engineering.

The work description matched: build small swale between Canal Property and Our Property to move water parallel along the Toe of Slope, for about 100 feet long total. Insure it could be maintained by mowing equipment, plant embankment grass seed, and cover with straw to promote grass growth.


They started with this:





And they ended with this:




And for those of you who still can't "see" the earthen embankment dams along the Erie Canal, please look at that bottom picture again.


And just to be clear, as Erie Canal Neighbors for more that 25 years now...

We haven't seen as many deer in the past as we see now, with a 400' stretch of "protected food" for deer to feed on. They seem to love the new gourmet selections from the Erie Canal Embankment Dam 'salad bar'; green grass, lots of clover, and other tasty vegetation to keep about 6 adult deer fed... three here.





If you need help with a "water issue" and live along the Erie Canal below one of the many earthen embankment dams, you only need to ask. The Canal Corporation is looking for any and all opportunities to help their neighbors out, and will come and assess your issues.

It's all part of their new Canal Integrity Initiative - https://www.nyscanalintegrity.org/
« Last Edit: December 01, 2021, 02:03:13 pm by Doug K »