Local state legislators want canal reopened soon

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Erie Canal is shown in Albion by Krantz Furniture and the Main Street Lift Bridge in this file photo. The canal was scheduled to open on May 15 but the start of the navigational season has been delayed.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 May 2020 at 10:59 am

Several state legislators are urging the State Canal Corp. to get the Erie Canal ready for the start of anew navigational season.

The Canal Corp. announced on April 23 the canal wouldn’t be opening on May 15 as planned. The Canal Corp. hasn’t provided an update since on when the canal could open this year.

The canal has operated every year since it was originally constructed in 1825, spanning 363 miles across upstate from Buffalo to Albany.

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, are among 18 state legislators representing canal communities who sent a joint letter to the New York Power Authority, demanding the canal be opened.

“We are confident that with the proper protections in place, this highly skilled and experienced workforce can quickly and effectively open the Canal System for full navigational use,” the letter said.

State Assemblyman Michael Norris, R-Lockport, also sent his own letter to Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, which oversees the Erie Canal.

“I have grave concerns about recent reports regarding the 2020 Navigation System throughout the New York State Canal,” Norris wrote. “Where a delay is understandable, there is an uneasy sense that the opening may not happen at all. This concern reverberates throughout every community in Western New York along the canal system especially given the partial restoration of the Flight of Five in Lockport, the recent celebration of the Erie Canal Bicentennial and the economic driver the canal system is in Niagara and Orleans counties.”

Norris urged the Power Authority to have the canal workers due the needed construction and other maintenance work needed to have the system proceed with its navigational season. Much of the needed preparation work has been idled since mid-March.

“Recently the Governor unveiled and supported the great work New Yorkers accomplished regarding the effort to Reimagine the Canal,” Norton said in his letter. “As you may be aware, I have expressed my full support and offered a number of initiatives that would benefit canal communities and encourage economic development in our region. Our community needs the canal to be open now more than ever for both social and economic sustainability.”

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