Canal officials plan to reopen waterway in May with no changes in normal operations

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 February 2021 at 11:11 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A crew from Russia travelled the Erie Canal on a boat, Pilgrim, last Aug. 7. They are shown headed west under the Ingersoll Street lift bridge in Albion.

The leader of the New York Power Authority, which oversees the state’s canal system, responded to rumors about the upcoming canal season, saying it should be back on a normal schedule after a shortened season last year due to Covid-19.

Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of NYPA, issued this statement this morning:

“The New York State Canal system has been, and continues to be, a significant driver of economic development for upstate communities and a valuable resource for recreation. As the 2021 navigation season approaches, the Canal Corporation is actively engaging with a wide range of local stakeholders across New York who rely on the waterway to identify their needs.

“The Canal Corporation is also assessing and addressing portions of the system’s aging infrastructure. These projects include undertaking efforts to optimize operation of the locks and lift bridges based on usage data when the Canal system opens this spring. As in previous years, the Canal system is projected to operate mid-May through mid-October and no changes are expected to the normal hours of operation.

“In addition, New York State’s iconic Erie Canal is not being renamed. The Erie Canal will remain the Erie Canal just as it has been for two centuries.”

Last year the opening of the canal system was pushed back from May to June 26, after canal staff and construction crews were sidelined early in the pandemic. That prevented the State Canal Corp. from doing some of the work needed before the canals could be opened.

During a conference call on Tuesday evening with Orleans County officials, Josh Veronica of State Sen. Rob Ortt’s office said there was concern in the canal communities that the start of the season might again be delayed.

Many of the businesses along the canal “took a big hit” last year and already have boating trips and other services scheduled for this year, said Veronica, Ortt’s director of community relations.

“The rumors of shortened season are not true at this point,” Veronica said. “We’ll advocate for those canals being open for as long as possible.”

New York’s Canal system spans 524 miles and includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca. The New York State Canal Corporation is a subsidiary of the New York Power Authority.