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Erie Canal season won’t open as planned on May 15

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Traveling Towpath Troubadours, right, play from a house boat on the Erie Canal in Albion on July 10, 2016, with a tugboat and boathouse close by. The Ingersoll Street lift bridge is also pictured.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 April 2020 at 9:44 pm

The State Canal Corporation won’t open the Erie Canal as planned on May 15 for its 196th navigational season.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canal Corp. suspended all non-essential construction and maintenance activities, which are needed to have the  system in working order.

The Canal Corporation is evaluating options for opening the canal later this year, even if potentially on a regional basis, the Canal Corp. said in a notice to mariners on Thursday.

“We recognize that this is an extraordinarily difficult time and are sensitive to potential hardships Canal stakeholders, as well as many other New Yorkers, may experience,” the Canal Corp. said. “The situation with Covid-19 is ever-evolving and we are trying to adapt our plans accordingly.”

The canal has been operational every year since it opened in 1825.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor said a fully navigable canal system should be considered essential transportation infrastructure.

“Delays in opening the Canal System or opening the canals on a ‘regional basis’ will have significant negative impacts on the economy and social fabric of upstate communities and will impede a full New York State recovery,” the Erie Canalway stated in response to the Cana Corporation’s announcement.

“The NYS Canal System generates billions of dollars in economic impact each year for canal communities and businesses,” Erie Canalway stated. “Negative impacts will be keenly felt by boating-related businesses and service providers, commercial operators, communities that rely on canal tourism, and manufacturing.”

A delayed opening of the canal will further contribute to a climate of uncertainty across the entire state, the Erie Canalway said.

“More than 70 percent of upstate New Yorkers live within 20 miles of the canals. For 200 years, through wars and peacetime, prosperity and recession, the canals have remained navigable,” the organization stated. “Residents in canal communities celebrate the opening of the Canal System each year and embrace the beauty, history, and recreational opportunities that the canals provide. Opening the entire Canal System in a safe and timely fashion would provide a sense of normalcy and hope to millions.”

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