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State agencies won't appeal court order regarding canal embankment 'clear-cutting'

NYS Canal Corp.

The New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corporation say they will not appeal  a  court decision that halted a controversial program that involved the clear-cutting of trees along the embankment of the Erie Canal.

Instead, state officials say they will move forward with a comprehensive environmental review of the program across the entire canal system, not just the towns that took legal action which include Brighton, Perinton and Pittsord.

The towns had sued because of concerns about the way the clear-cutting looked in areas in the western part of Monroe County, and they also didn’t like the way the process was handled.

The state has said the work is essential to maintain the safety and stability of the embankment.

John Callaghan is Executive Deputy Director for the Canal Corporation and he says the state agencies will be looking for more feedback from area residents.

“We want to make sure that we go through this process to make sure that everybody’s got an opportunity to look at what we want to do to comment on it, and that we have the benefit of that public engagement and involvement,” Callaghan told WXXI News. 

Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle is pleased the state has taken this initial step but he’d like to see them also look at alternatives to the clear-cutting process.

“You really have to demonstrate that you’ve looked at alternatives and one of the concerns was, are there other ways to ensure the integrity of the canal without clear-cutting. Clear-cutting is such an extreme measure; look on the west side of the county to see just how extreme it is,” Moehle said.

Callaghan says in communities where the embankment has already been cleared of vegetation, there will be some additional work this fall.

“Where the trees have already been cut, yes, people will see that work resume in the fall in terms of removing those stumps, filling the voids that are left after you remove the stumps, making sure that material is properly compacted, grading the embankment, doing any drainage improvements that we need to do.”

The Canal Corp. says that work is expected to begin in November.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.