Public comment period extended for Erie Canal embankment program

Aug 30, 2021

Credit WXXI photo

The New York State Canal Corporation is extending the public comment period for a controversial program that involves removing vegetation from the banks of the Erie Canal.

That program drew a lot of opposition a few years ago when the Canal Corporation began a preventive maintenance project that involved removing trees from a number of locations between the Villages of Medina and Fairport.

The Canal Corporation was later sued by some municipalities and residents,  and the corporation was ordered to perform an environmental review.

But the concept has not been abandoned by officials with the Canal Corp. They also say they are developing a guidebook to establish policies and procedures for management about 125 miles of earthen embankments along the canal system. Many of those embankments are in Western New York and the Rochester area.

The Canal Corporation said that guidebook will set protocols for safety, inspection, maintenance and related environmental concerns.

Originally the deadline for comment  on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement was going to be in early August, then it was moved to early September, and now it’s been extended until October 15.

Elizabeth Agte  is a key figure in the grassroots effort to block widespread clear-cutting of vegetation along the canal and she is co-founder of Stop the Canal Clear Cut. Agte is pleased the deadline for comment has been moved, but still wants more detail from the Canal Corporation on what will happen.

“The involvement we want is for people to be at the decision making table who are stakeholders and business people in these canal towns who are economically impacted. And foremost, we want actual scientists there that can speak to the value of clear cutting or not clear cutting,” Agte said.

Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton released a statement saying that, “The Canal Corporation is committed to a public engagement process that provides meaningful ways for members of the community to contribute to the final design of the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program.”

There are two informational meetings scheduled to provide community members and stakeholders more information about the embankment program. Both are in Fairport at the Town of Perinton Community Center on Turk Hill Road. They are on Monday, September 20 and Tuesday, September 21, running each day from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

People from the community can also register to participate in virtual sessions to be hosted at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 30 by emailing: public.info@canals.ny.gov