Farmers want some water left in canal for irrigation when draining starts next week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2016 at 9:00 am
Water siphon in the canal

Photos by Tom Rivers– The state Canal Corp. will begin draining a section of the canal on Monday. New York Farm Bureau is asking the Canal Corp. to leave enough water in the canal so farms can continue to siphon water for crops. This picture shows one of the siphons just west of the Keitel Road bridge in Albion.

ALBION – The draining of the a section of the Erie Canal starting next week comes at a bad time for many of the farmers with land by the canal, agricultural operations that rely on canal water to help nourish crops.

The state Canal Corp. will drain water beginning Monday from Brockport to Middleport so the Canal Corp. and a contractor can make an emergency repair to a culvert in Hulberton. After the initial closure of the canal, the drained portion will be isolated between Albion and Holley.

There are 27 permitted irrigation siphons between Brockport and Middleport, including 25 for farms and two for commercial golf courses, said Shane Mahar, Canal spokesman. The section between Albion and Holley has 14 permitted agricultural siphon permits.

Farm irrigation in Albion

A farm uses canal water today to irrigate a field in Albion between Keitel and Butts roads. There are 14 farms between Albion and Holley with agricultural permits to siphon canal water.

New York Farm Bureau is asking the Canal Corp. to leave some water in the canal for farmers to siphon water, particularly during this difficult stretch of weather with so little rain, Farm Bureau officials told the Orleans Hub.

Mahar said the Canal Corp. won’t be “bone dry” after the draining beginning next week. The Canal Corp. is in “daily conversations” with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, NY Farm Bureau and its engineering team about how much water should be left in the canal.

“This stretch of the canal is so vital to the agriculture community for irrigation purposes,” Mahar said. “There may be extra pumps and siphons, but it won’t be at the full volume they typically get.”

The Canal Corp. announced last week the section of the canal needed to be closed to allow for the repair of a leaking culvert in Hulberton. Mahar said that notice was intended to give farmers, boaters and other canal users time to adjust how they use the canal and to perhaps make other plans.

The Canal Corp. said the closure could last several weeks, but Mahar said it could be reopened sooner, depending on the extent of the work needed. That scope of work won’t be known until the canal is drained and contractors and engineers can better assess the damage, Mahar said.

“We are cautiously optimistic the repair could be done sooner,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how to make this as minimally impacting as possible.”