Judge halts clear cutting along the Erie Canal until full environmental review is done

Mar 8, 2018

A state judge on Wednesday ruled in favor of the Towns of Pittsford, Perinton and Brighton in their effort to halt the clear cutting of trees along the Erie Canal, at least until the Canal Corporation and the New York Power Authority comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Barrett said, “the essential issue is whether the respondents took the appropriate steps to comply with SEQRA to achieve this goal of changing the landscape of the Erie Canal.”

The judge determined that the state agencies need to do the full environmental review required by law.

In a Facebook post, Pittsford Supervisor Bill Smith said that,”The injunction against cutting of trees on the Canal in Pittsford, Perinton and Brighton now continues, pending the Power Authority and Canal Corporation complying with SEQRA.”

The vegetation management project has generated a lot of opposition from people  who say the tree cutting is unnecessary and ruins the aesthetic of the canal, and that there was no warning or transparency from the Canal Corporation of the project.

The Canal Corporation has said the work is essential to maintain embankment safety and stability.

After Thursday’s court ruling, a spokesman for the New York Power Authority (which oversees the canal) released this statement:

Our top priority has always been the safety and security of those who use the Erie Canal and those who live and work nearby. We are disappointed by the court’s decision and will review our options. The Canal Corporation hopes to still perform necessary maintenance on the embankment in time for the start of the 2018 navigation season in May.”