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Canal inspectors say lift bridges in great shape

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 August 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Tug Syracuse carries inspectors and officials from the State Canal Corporation after checking the lift bridge in Holley this morning. The hydraulic, mechanical and electrical systems all passed inspection. The seven lift bridges in Orleans County all passed the Canal Corporation’s review on Wednesday and Thursday, part of a canal-wide inspection of the locks, guard gates and lift bridges.

HOLLEY – They may be 100 years old, but the lift bridges in Orleans County were all given strong passing grades during inspections on Wednesday and Thursday.

Canal inspectors checked the electrical, mechanical and hydraulic systems, and also rated the lift bridges for appearance.

“Everything is in good working order,” John Callaghan, deputy director of the Canal Corp., said about the lift bridges. “They have held up wonderfully after a century of service.”

The Canal Corporation began its annual inspection of the canal system began on Tuesday in Buffalo when the Tug Syracuse departed from Canalside to assess the historic waterway.

The legally mandated inspection takes place over the next two months in two- and three-day segments. The Canal Corp. will assess the overall condition and capital needs of the nearly 200-year-old Canal system, which supports $380 million in tourism-based and $6.4 billion in non-tourism-based economic activity, Canal Corp. officials said. The canal also provides a vital resource for drinking water, agriculture, industry and hydroelectric power generation, officials said.

Don Brace works in the control tower at lift bridge in Holley. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley stopped by to see the inspection of the Holley lift bridge. He said he is working on inviting several state legislators from New York City for a boat ride on the canal where they could then see farms, historic downtowns and other local attractions.

“New York’s Canal system is one of our greatest treasures, as a historical resource and an engine that supports economic activity throughout the Empire State,” Thruway and Canal Executive Director Tom Madison said in a statement earlier this week.

Callaghan, the deputy canal director, while in Holley today praised the canal employees.

“They take their job seriously,” he said. “They’re out greasing, prepping and painting. It’s a constant when you have 100-year-old infrastructure.”

While the bridges mechanical, electrical and hydraulic components are working well, at least one of the lift bridges – Knowlesville – has a weight reduction due to structural issues and is limited to one-lane traffic. Callaghan said the Department of Transportation inspects the spans for structural integrity. The canal inspectors are focused on other issues with the bridges.

The Tug Syracuse heads east from Holley to check the two lift bridges in Brockport.

Darren McGuirk, assistant canal equipment specialist, headed the inspections today, which started in Albion and headed east. He marveled at how well the lift bridges are holding up.

“The employees are dedicated,” he said. “They know these bridges are the center of these communities. They keep them going.”

The inspection tour is a tradition dating from Oct. 26, 1825, when Gov. DeWitt Clinton departed from Buffalo aboard the Seneca Chief to mark the opening of the Erie Canal after eight years of construction.