Author Topic: What about Safety? - Facebook Group Website vs NYS Canal Integrity Website  (Read 58 times)

Doug K

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This post is all part of that reoccurring theme on Canal Safety - Re: Facebook Group Founder does not like the new Canal Integrity Website

Just to be clear, the biggest change with the NYS Canal Corporation's Canal Integrity website, is that it finally is addressing the misinformation being spread by a certain Facebook group in Perinton. Not only has the new Canal Integrity website come out with a renewed emphasis on Safety, it is also answering many of the "fake facts" being spread around by this Facebook Group on their Google Website for Stop the Canal Clearcut.

NYS Canal Integrity vs. Stop the Canal Clear-cut

Let's take a look side by side at the Canal Embankment Integrity website and the Google site hosted by Ms. Agte and her Facebook group. In that comparison you will start to understand why this new webpage from the NYS canal folks has Ms. Agte and her group so quiet these days. It's about something that eludes this Facebook opposition group, as seen in their Safety Statements. It's called the truth.

First, let's start here with the statements from the NYSCC regarding Canal Embankment Safety, directly from their new Website:

https://www.nyscanalintegrity.org/


"As responsible stewards of the Canal system, we must ensure its integrity." "To protect the New York State Canal system and preserve it for generations to come—from problems only exacerbated by climate change—we’re laying the groundwork today."

Program Mission - To restore, maintain and manage approximately 125 miles of earthen embankments along the 524-mile Canal system to ensure the Canal continues to operate safely for generations to come.

Program Vision - A future state where Canal embankments are safe, secure and well maintained for the benefit of adjacent communities, boaters and trail users, and where our approach balances public safety and the habitat, carbon sequestration, and recreational benefits of the ecosystems along the Canal.

Proposed Earthen Embankment Integrity Program - The Canal system reaches 524 miles across the state. Of those, about 125 miles run through earthen embankments. To maintain and preserve these embankments and the experiences of all who use our system, we are developing an Earthen Embankment Integrity Program (EEIP).

Earthen Embankment Integrity Program Overview

For a total of approximately 125 miles of its 524-mile length, the Canal runs through built earthen embankments. These embankment structures exist at many non-continuous points along the Canal, but the concentration of high hazard large embankments is located between Lockport in Niagara County and Lyons in Wayne County (shorter stretches of high hazard embankments are found elsewhere). “High hazard” means that failure would likely result in, among other things, loss of life or widespread economic impact.

The New York State Canal Corporation is developing an embankment inspection and maintenance guidebook that will set forth protocols for safety, inspection, maintenance, community outreach and related environmental concerns, including a procedural approach as to where trees will be removed. While there will be a presumption that all trees and other unsuitable vegetation will be cleared to protect people and property, the guidebook will also recognize opportunities to consider alternatives to tree clearing in areas used for recreation, parks, municipal, residential and commercial areas.



Here is what the OWNERS of the Canal system have said about the consequences of taking "No Action" on their high-hazard, earthen embankments that are now unsafe, in the SEQR Environmental Review:

2.0 ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED - Null or No-Action Alternative
The null or no-action alternative is to ignore earthen embankment conditions. This alternative is unacceptable. NYSCC is required by law to perform annual inspections of the Canal System and maintain the Canal System in good condition, which includes the earthen embankments. Under this alternative, trees and vegetation would be allowed to grow on embankment slopes, weakening them and creating seepage paths.

The complete absence of a program means there is no active monitoring and inspections of earthen embankment conditions, and there are no policies or guidelines for evaluating and prioritizing embankment maintenance and repairs. With no monitoring and maintenance activities, NYSCC will fail to meet its statutory duty and the earthen embankments would be left to fail.


The Earthen Embankments would be left to fail... sounds quite ominous.

Well that's because right after making the statement about failing embankments the Canal Corporation document goes on to describe what that would look like, what would happen exactly when an embankment were to fail.

Under the Null or No-Action Alternative, any earthen embankments would be left to fail. Prior to any such failure, there would be little or no measurable impact to floodplains inside or outside of the earthen embankments.

At such time that the embankments would fail, water contained within the canal prism would be rapidly released. The risks associated with such an event are described in Appendix B. Depending on the location of the breach the surrounding area would be inundated to various depths depending on topography. A breach in a canal or feeder embankment having a water depth of 12 feet is estimated to occur over 1½ hours, enlarge to 150 feet wide and discharge a peak flow of between 5,000 and 10,000 cfs.

This water would be released as a flood wave that would have the potential to cause serious damage or destroy downstream homes and businesses. The most significant impact would be loss of life from occupied structures in the flood wave path. Other damage would include buildings, highways and utility infrastructure within the inundation zone. Additional damage would be caused to public parkland, agricultural lands, historic resources or aesthetic resources of local or statewide importance.

The water quality of the canal itself and downstream waterways would be impacted by the flood wave. After the breach flood wave, the floodplain of adjacent or downstream waterways would be impacted by the deposition of sediment from the flood. The resulting flood wave would seriously impact existing land uses for the inundated terrain outside the canal limits.

In addition to potential loss of life and damage to infrastructure, most of the flooded lands would be rendered unusable until restoration projects were completed. Impacts of odors could be particularly noticeable as a result of indirect impacts of flooding such as the growth of mold and from backed up storm and sanitary sewers.



For those who can't picture how much water this is... here's the math.



That is somewhere between 4 to 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools being drained...EVERY MINUTE!

Canal Neighbors, communities, and those using the canal system, should consider how devastating a canal embankment flood would be



So what does the Stop the Canal Clear-cut Facebook group say about Canal Embankment Safety?

That is safety for the NY Canal System itself, so it can be here for another 100 years.

And it's also for the safety of the communities and neighbors who live below these aging earthen dams.

It's all on their Google Website: https://sites.google.com/view/eriecanalclearcutting/what-about-safety?authuser=0




If you read through the Safety webpage on Google, for this group, you will see an initial statement from the group about their thoughts on Safety.. they are all for it.

From Ms. Agte and her STCC Group: "First, we want to be clear that those of us involved in Stop the Canal ClearCut live in the communities that are around the raised embankments of the Canal. We absolutely do NOT want to put our friends, neighbors, and community at risk.

The first two sentences sound like the group is sincere about the safety of their fellow man... But then they go on to use their entire Safety page to say they do NOT believe the OWNERS of the canal understand their own safety issues. They spend time trying to refute the experts on Earthen Dam Safety with their own "facts", and at the end even state that they do not even believe Canal Embankments are actually "earthen dams".

We also want to protect the value of the Canal to our communities, and for many Canal trail users and Canal-reliant businesses, that means preserving the natural values of the canal -- natural scenery, the presence of birds and other animals that use the wooded corridors as habitat, the cool, quiet sanctuary that the path provides in highly human-impacted environments. 

So why do we think the natural vegetation can and should be preserved when the Canal Corporation is adamant that it should be removed?


It seems that the STCC group, and it's founders, have no other answer than "pure denial", to what the Canal Corporation has stated about it's Embankment Safety issues, and 100s of miles of high-hazard earthen dams, that leave canal communities at risk of flood & destruction. Just deny it all and say it's all "fear-mongering".

Their last statement -"why do we think the natural vegetation can and should be preserved?"says it all... they deny what the Canal Corporation is saying about safety, and trees on dams.


« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 12:10:57 pm by Doug K »

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Doug K

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And of course there is more...

Since 2018 the Canal Corporation has also undertaken the time & expense, to create a new Embankment Maintenance Manual & Best Practices Guidebook. It is the "Maintenance Plan" and can be found here on their new website, it explains exactly why and how canal embankment will be cleared: https://www.canals.ny.gov/Earthen_Embankment/DGEIS/2021-03-09_DRAFT_FINAL_Embankment_Maintenance_Guidebook.pdf

In addition the NYS Power Authority, OWNERS of the Canal Corporation and all of it's assets, have also complied with NYS Environmental Quality Act (SEQR) laws that insure that all work will take a forward looking approach to the work at hand and how it might affect the environment around the canal. That SEQR Document can be found here: https://www.canals.ny.gov/Earthen_Embankment/DGEIS/NYSCC_EEIP_Draft_GEIS_3-12-2021_Combined.pdf


In these documents the NYS Canal Corporation defines an Earthen Embankment: An earthen embankment is an engineered structure or dam wall of the canal, which is made from soil, rock, clay, and other “earthen material’ and impounds (holds) water for a prolonged period above the adjacent land surface elevation.

And from the new Embankment Integrity website this statement is found in the FAQ section:

How are embankment dams different from levees?

Levees typically are meant to protect adjacent areas from flood events and, generally, do not retain water for long periods of time. They can be made from earthen embankments. Embankment dams, like those found along New York’s Canal System, retain water for half the year or longer and have a low-level outlet which means that water levels can be controlled. To see where earthen embankment dams are located along New York’s canals, you can view maps on the Program & Maps page.


So what does the Stop the Canal Clear-cut say about Canal Embankments? They do not believe anything that the Canal Corporation stated.

From the STCC Website on Safety: The earthen Canal Embankments are not engineered dams.

The first 12 pages of the Embankment Maintenance Manual are essentially a long argument that yes, they are. We disagree for a number of reasons -- the primary being that a dam is build perpendicular to flowing water; these embankments are built parallel to the "flow" of the canal.

But regardless, even if you accept this premise, it is clear from the the structure of the embankments and the engineering documents of the time that they are not made of compacted earth the way a dam that creates a reservoir is.  They are piles of dirt, whose stability may, in fact, depend on the roots that form a dense network within them.

We think it is more accurate to consider the Canal embankments as part of a unique, historic,  linear park system and make decisions about  how to maintain these embankments with that understanding.




Once again, this Facebook group choses denial over facts & truth.

Afterall, if you don't believe the Erie Canal is lined by earthen dams, you can easily say they aren't a danger..right?
« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 09:26:42 am by Doug K »

Doug K

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And still more...this time the topic is Tree Roots, do they really "stabilize" soil?

The Canal Corporation has been very clear on this subject, and have stated it several times... No Trees on Dams. The main reason is because tree roots negatively affect the stability of earthen dams.

Here's the TRUTH from a FEMA Technical Manual on Plants near Dams that is being used to guide embankment maintenance:

https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-08/fema-534.pdf


Chapter 3- Tree Growth and Tree Root Development Requirements
The purpose of this chapter is to provide the reader and user of this Manual with a basic understanding of plant physiology related to fundamental processes of tree growth and tree root development. It is not the intent of this chapter to delve into a detailed biological
study of trees and woody vegetation, but to provide the reader with a fundamental understanding of the requirements for tree growth and tree root development while attempting to dispel some of the misconceptions and myths associated with tree and woody vegetation growth, particularly as related to tree root development.

Common Myths and Misconceptions: There are many misconceptions and common myths relating to trees and woody vegetation that have been accepted by many people without a scientific basis. Many of these common myths and misconceptions relative to plant physiology have originated from uneducated interpretations of observations associated with tree growth and tree root development. Some of these myths and misconceptions associated with trees and woody vegetation affect correct interpretation and understanding of the impact of such growth on the safety of earthen dams.

Tree Root Soil Stabilization is likely the most common misconception associated with tree growth and tree root development. How many times has the reader heard, or perhaps mistakenly said, “If it were not for those trees and tree roots this slope would really be eroded or unstable – those tree roots are really ‘holding’ that soil slope”.

Many otherwise knowledgeable and educated individuals believe the myth that tree roots actually stabilize soil masses by ‘holding’ the soil together. This misconception leads many people to believe that heavy tree and woody vegetation growth is actually beneficial for steep embankment slopes.

Tree root development that is necessary to provide nutrients for tree growth and stabilize the tree actually loosens the soil mass.
 

And what does a Facebook Group say about this soil stabilization topic?

Well the group's founder says it all...they want to believe the "myth", even though it's actually untrue.

From the STCC Google Website:

...it is clear from the the structure of the embankments that they are not made of compacted earth the way a dam that creates a reservoir is.  They are piles of dirt, whose stability may, in fact, depend on the roots that form a dense network within them.

The first clue that this document lacked input from plant biologists and ecologists is this eye-popping statement, that the well-established fact that tree roots do in fact stabilize soil, is a "myth", and that roots in fact "destabilize soil". 

Where did this statement come from?


The STCC asked who wrote this statement that is OPPOSITE of what they want to believe?

It's from the people who cleanup AFTER floods happen, and the group responsible to insure Dam Safety is maintained in our country FEMA...and FEMA is stating that this STCC Facebook Group believes a MYTH!!!


« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 08:31:20 am by Doug K »

Doug K

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Finally, and maybe one of the biggest safety concerns on Canal Embankment Integrity is the issue of Burrowing Animals on Earthen Dams.

The Canal Corporation is very clear on this subject, citing issues with animal burrows causing safety issues and increasing flood potential 17 times in their SEQR Environmental Impact Statement for their Earthen Embankment Integrity Program (EEIP).

Here's what the Canal Corporation has to say about invasive vegetation and animal burrows:


As discussed in the Guide Book, woody vegetation with robust root systems can disturb the soil structure in the embankment. Roots that penetrate the phreatic surface in the embankment increase the risk of internal erosion known as piping, the early stages of which can go undetected for decades resulting in a sudden failure of an earthen embankment. Animal burrows pose a similar piping potential. The animal burrow shortens the seepage path potentially leading to piping at the burrow location.

Furthermore, large trees can be uprooted by winds/erosion and leave large holes in the embankment, root systems can decay and rot
creating passageways for water through the embankment. Once a significant seepage pathway is initiated, catastrophic embankment failure could be expected to occur within one to two hours. The presence of brush and trees can also hinder critical emergency responses to flooding
or repair operations.


And more from the same EIS document:

Some wildlife species, such as woodchucks (groundhogs) and muskrats, are more tolerant to human disturbance than other species. Embankments along the canal system provide suitable habitat for these types of rodents. However, their burrowing activities can lead to serious structural damages to the canal system and costly repairs by creating voids and pathways for intruding water to accelerate erosion as discussed in the Guide Book. Identifying, controlling, and repairing rodent burrows is an important part of maintaining the structural stability of embankments. Part of the rodent control process would involve removing the rodent from that area.

NYSCC has an agreement with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Service (WS) for assistance with control of the rodent population along the canal and feeder embankments. All trapping, relocating and population control measures would be undertaken by APHIS and not NYSCC directly. After the rodent is removed, the burrow would be filled with material depending on its size and location on the embankment in accordance with the Guide Book.


This is what the EEIP Guidebook says about Burrowing Animals:

Proper maintenance of embankments and their ancillary features is of utmost importance in protecting lives and reducing the flood risk of adjacent communities. This includes the proper maintenance of vegetation on embankments and ancillary structures. Non-compatible vegetation can harm the structural integrity of these impoundment structures, obscure visibility of the ground surface (necessary for inspections for other types of failures), impede access for maintenance and inspection, and encourage burrowing by rodents by providing habitat.

Woody vegetation with robust root systems can disturb the soil structure in the embankment. Roots that penetrate the phreatic surface in the embankment increase the risk of internal erosion known as piping, the early stages of which can go undetected for decades resulting in a sudden failure of an earthen embankment. Animal burrows pose a similar piping potential – the animal burrow shortens the seepage path potentially leading to piping at the burrow location. Additionally, shade caused by woody vegetation can impede growth of more compatible grassy vegetation.

Furthermore, large trees can be uprooted by winds/erosion and leave large holes in the embankment, root systems can decay and
rot creating passageways for water through the embankment. Once a significant seepage pathway is initiated, catastrophic embankment failure could be expected to occur within one to two hours. The presence of brush and trees can also hinder critical emergency responses to flooding or repair operations.



And what does the STCC Group say about all of this? Well they simply say it's not true, even though the facts do not support their view. In fact their founder states that canalside animals will NOT leave their habitat, even if it's removed by embankment dam maintenance.

From the pen of Ms Elizabeth Agte: "This statement is on page 3-64 of the Environmental Impact Statement. The idea that if habitat is destroyed "animals will just move elsewhere" is just... incredibly silly.

That this nonsensical statement is memorialized in a supposedly serious scientific document about the environmental impacts of an action, produced for the NYS government, is really shocking

That the reference for this statement is a study about how degraded habitat is not something that wild species can successfully use is just embarrassing."





What else can be said? Maybe it's more silly to think woodchucks will be lining the Canal Embankments wasting away, looking for their covered burrows? That displaced squirrels will be shedding tears over their lost trees?

How can anyone believe, what this group is saying about embankment safety, is actually true?

Hopefully the NYS Canal Corporation will succeed in finally turning the corner on their Embankment Integrity Program and this much needed dam work will get started to repair an aging, hazardous, canalway and it's miles and miles of unsafe earthen embankments.

And hopefully a group in Perinton, who wants people to believe the "real truth" is always found on Facebook, will somehow find a way to accept they have been mistaken on the "safety" aspects" of earthen embankment maintenance. 

And that same Facebook group will stop trying to turn a public safety program to fix unsafe NYS Canal Dams into an environmental issue, saying shade is more important than human life.

« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 09:30:33 am by Doug K »

Michael Caswell

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https://ecna.createaforum.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=1038.0;attach=5032;image

One has to ask, are these people TELLING us they know they aren't dams, because of the way the water flows?

So, what are they missing here?

HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE AND THE PHREATIC LINE!
Levees are normally (99% of their lives) dry, so are not under hydrostatic pressure, no and obviously no seepage of water, so no phreatic line.
To be a dam, there must be both phenomenons, and OUR canal has all its impounding embankments with these characteristics.

It's a DAM!    So it must follow the FEMA, USACE, & ASDSO rules. No trees on a DAM!

Simple really!


« Last Edit: November 21, 2021, 12:12:39 pm by Doug K »