nature & waterways

Erie Canal opens Friday for 198th navigation season

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Big Apple in Medina, just west of the Glenwood Avenue canal bridge, is shown on Tuesday while nearby trees are in bloom. The apple sculpture was created by local artist Richard Bannister.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2022 at 11:45 am

The Erie Canal will open Friday to boaters for the 198th navigation season.

The entire system is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. The standard hours of operation are 7 to 5 p.m. daily until the season closes on Oct. 12.

However, the lift bridges from Spencerport through Orleans County to Gasport will be operational from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the peak navigation season from May 20 through Sept. 14. There are seven lift bridges in Orleans County – Holley, Hulberton, Ingersoll Street in Albion, Main Street in Albion, Eagle Harbor, Knowlesville and Medina. There are 16 lift bridges on the canal and the seven in Orleans are more than any other county in the state.

For the sixth straight year, the Canal Corp. is waiving the recreational boating fees. Those tolls were normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel.

It’s a colorful sight along the canal right now during the spring bloom.

Canal bank inspections start this week in Orleans, Niagara

Posted 28 March 2022 at 12:20 pm

Work includes survey, geophysical investigation and soil borings

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

The New York State Canal Corporation announced that routine inspections of water retaining embankments along the Erie Canal in Niagara and Orleans Counties will begin this week.

These inspections, which provide information on the embankment composition, will be completed by Canal Corporation contractors, and are necessary to ensure the embankments are functioning as designed. If deficiencies are discovered during the inspections, repairs will be appropriately scheduled.

The contractors will complete surveying, geophysical investigations, and soil borings at the following locations:

  • Between Eagle Harbor Road and Gaines Basin Road (Town of Albion)
  • Between Wruck Road and Peet Street (Middleport)
  • From Halls Waste Weir Dam to Lake Avenue (City of Lockport)

This routine work is not associated with the Canal Corporation’s proposed Earthen Embankment Integrity Program.

While this routine inspection work is performed, residents may notice crew members, wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests, as well as their geophysical and drilling equipment called “rigs” in the vicinity of the locations noted above.

During the inspections, access to the Erie Canalway Trail may be disrupted for brief periods of time. Any trail detours will be posted on signs and shared with municipalities in advance.

It is anticipated that this inspection process will be completed by June 30.

The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience while this work is completed.

DEC, Canal Corp. target spread of round goby

Posted 25 March 2022 at 9:13 am

Photo from DEC of round goby which range in size from 4 to 10 inches.

Press Release, DEC and Canal Corp.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Canal Corporation have announced a new comprehensive effort, including a new rapid response plan, to combat the potential spread of the round goby, an aquatic invasive species, to the Lake Champlain Basin following the discovery of the fish in the Hudson River near Troy in July 2021. Aquatic invasive species can out-compete native fish species, disrupting ecosystems and damaging local economies dependent on recreation.

Aquatic invasive species are non-native aquatic plants and animals that can negatively impact the environment, local economies, and even human health. These harmful species have been found in many of New York’s lakes, ponds, and rivers, and can be transported from waterbody to waterbody on watercraft, equipment, and bait. Research shows that recreational watercraft are the greatest vector for transport and introduction of these invasive species throughout the United States.

“DEC is working shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners at Canal Corporation to address the threat of round goby and other invasive species to waterbodies like Lake Champlain,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “We are bolstering current invasive species surveillance education and taking a hard look at the immediate threats posed by these water-borne invaders to implement the most effective strategies that will protect our fisheries, wildlife, and local recreational economies today and into the future.”

The round goby is one of the biggest threats to New York waters, particularly Lake Champlain, and DEC lists round goby as a prohibited invasive species in the New York Code of Rules and Regulations. Native to Europe and Asia, this fish was introduced in the Great Lakes in 1990, and spread throughout the lakes’ system. Round goby reproduces quickly, outcompetes native benthic fish species for food and habitat, eats the young and eggs of other fish, and can transport botulism up the food chain to waterfowl.

“The Canal Corporation is proactively partnering with DEC to ensure the Canal system helps implement any necessary steps, including education and awareness programming, to combat against invasive fish, like the round goby, and other aquatic invasive species, while at the same time ensuring the Canal remains a driver of economic activity and a thriving tourist destination,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “As we implement risk reduction strategies along on the Champlain Canal this season, we ask users and stakeholders for their patience and encourage them to learn how they can assist in mitigating the spread of aquatic invasive species to ensure the Canal’s resiliency for generations to come.”

DEC and Canals will conduct a full evaluation of the potential ecological and economic impacts of aquatic invasive species, including the round goby, to the public, canal users, municipalities, and New York State. Working with partners, the agencies will develop a rapid response plan to take effect before the opening of the Canal system on May 20 to identify appropriate actions if round goby enter the Champlain Canal. These measures and metrics will be driven by research tracking the spread of aquatic invasive species.

In addition to the rapid response plan, the agencies are working collaboratively with partners, like the Lake Champlain Basin Program and others, to the associated economic impacts, implement new risk reduction strategies and potential mitigation measures in select locks on the Champlain Canal, and provide enhanced public education so all New Yorkers can help prevent the spread of invasives. Prior to advancing any actions, DEC and the Canal Corporation will work with partners to educate and engage stakeholders on any measures identified to limit the spread of round goby.

Gillibrand, Schumer push to reauthorize, increase funding for Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor

Posted 22 March 2022 at 10:45 am

Press Release, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

Photo by Tom Rivers: Fireworks are reflected in the Erie Canal in Holley during the June Fest celebration on June 2, 2018.

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are announcing the introduction of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act, legislation that would extend the canalway’s authorization as a National Heritage Area (NHA) for the next 15 years, through FY 2037.

Currently, Congress reauthorizes NHAs in two-year periods; this 15-year extension would be a long-term solution to preserve one of New York’s most critical economic engines. In addition to extending the reauthorization period for the Erie Canalway Corridor as a National Heritage Area, this bill would raise the funding cap for the Erie Canalway from $16 million to $18 million.

The Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor consists of the 57 canalway locks, spanning 524 miles and connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River. It was designated a National Heritage Area by Congress in 2000, granting the waterway a federally appointed Canalway Commission tasked with ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved.

The corridor spans upstate New York from Buffalo to Albany and along the Champlain Canal to Whitehall. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors boat, bike, and walk along the corridor, supporting tourism, businesses, and job creation across the state. Gillibrand and Schumer successfully fought for reauthorization of the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor’s funding in 2009.

“It is time to open the gates and let long-term federal support flow into the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor so that Upstate New York’s economy can rise. The Erie Canal is a vital economic engine for tourism in Upstate New York, not to mention one of the Empire State’s greatest attractions and most impressive features. This legislation will ensure the legacy of the Erie Canal’s beauty remains intact and continues to inspire the next generation,” said Senator Schumer. “The history of the Erie Canal is not just the history of New York, but of America and the rise of our great nation. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I am proud to be leading the charge in ensuring the Erie Canal gets the funding it needs to continue to lift communities from Buffalo to Albany.”

“The Erie Canal is one of our nation’s richest treasures and spans across the great state of New York. The legacy of the canal helps drive millions of dollars and is a critical economic engine for Upstate New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “From Buffalo, through Wayne County and up to Lake Champlain, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has helped sustain strong communities with miles of adventure and endless recreation for the millions of New Yorkers who call the Corridor home. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide a long-term fix for the Erie Canalway’s reauthorization and funding cap. As a native of Upstate New York, I have always fought to preserve the canal’s natural resources and history and will continue serving as a champion in the Senate to conserve its beauty for generations to come.”

The senators have a long history of fighting for this important New York NHA. Congress has imposed cumulative funding caps on the amount of funding NHAs can receive over their lifetime, but also has the authority to increase the caps. In 2019, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko successfully increased the funding cap for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to $14 million. The FY 2022 omnibus funding package included an increase for the Erie Canalway to $16 million; however, as Congress figures out a long-term reauthorization solution, the senators want to ensure the Corridor is adequately funded should it reach its funding cap during that time frame.

The FY 2022 omnibus also reauthorized the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission through FY 2037, so this bill would align the Corridor’s reauthorization time frame with the Commission’s. Senator Gillibrand previously introduced bicameral legislation with Congressman Tonko to extend the Commission’s reauthorization.

“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, along with Congressman Tonko, have long recognized the value of investing in canal communities’ heritage and recreational opportunities as important economic drivers for upstate New York,” said Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Bob Radliff. “With their critical support, Erie Canalway will continue to preserve, foster and showcase this legendary place for millions of Corridor residents and visitors from all over the world.”

Ravens return to build new nest at County Courthouse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2022 at 1:08 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – A nest built by ravens is tucked into a crevice on the Orleans County Courthouse in Albion. The nest faces north at East State Street, above the front columns of the building.

This is the second year ravens have built a nest at the courthouse. Last year the nest was on the east side of the building.

The ravens collected good-size branches to make the nest in the courthouse. Last year several baby birds hatched from the nest in late April.

This raven is shown around noon today. The bird is perched high on the First Presbyterian Church and was making a lot of noise aimed at another raven which was in the nest.

New grant program will boost tourism initiatives along Erie Canal

Posted 2 February 2022 at 11:23 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: These cyclists were among 350 who rode the Erie Canal towpath last July. They are shown in Albion in between the two lift bridges.

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The New York State Canal Corporation, through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor are launching a new competitive grant program to support tourism and recreation along the New York State Canal System, including canal waterways and Canalway Trail.

The 2022 program will provide funding to support tourism infrastructure and amenity improvements, and events.

Funding is open to counties, municipalities, units of local government, not-for-profit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes.

“The Canal Corporation is proud to fund and partner with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in launching this new grant program that aims to grow unique recreation and tourism experiences along New York’s iconic Canal system,” said Brian Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation. “This funding will continue to make opportunities along the canals more exciting and accessible for visitors and we look forward to providing this support in an effort to improve experiences while promoting the connectivity between our historic waterways, trails, and canalside communities.”

The grant program includes two funding categories:

• Event Support, with an award range of $500 to $15,000, and

• Tourism Infrastructure & Amenity Support, with an award range of $5,000 to $24,000.

Applicants may apply for one or both categories.

Projects submitted should demonstrate how they will achieve one or more program objectives:

• facilitate recreation and/or tourism

• enhance visitor amenities

• encourage overnight stays

• improve the visitor experience

• make recreational and tourism assets more accessible

• attract and serve diverse audiences

• improve connectivity between recreation areas and communities or between waterways and land trails.

“We look forward to bringing many innovative ideas and exciting events to life through these grants. Combining federal, state, and local resources in support of community-based projects and events will benefit residents and visitors to New York’s iconic canals,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Potential applicants will find details by clicking here.

Applications open on Feb. 22 and are due on April 1. A virtual Q&A will be held on March 3 at 10 a.m.; registration details will be posted on the website.

Classes will help ‘Master Your Garden’ – honeybees, vermicomposting among the topics

Posted 21 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Provided photos: Geri Hens, a Master Beekeeper and environmental educator, will kick off the “Master Your Garden” series with a presentation on pollinators, focusing on native insects and other animals vital to the local ecosystem.

Press Release, Orleans County Master Gardeners

KNOWLESVILLE – Master Gardeners in Orleans County have finalized the lineup for their monthly “Master Your Garden” class series.

Like most organizations, Master Gardeners had to adapt and alter their typical event schedule the last two years due to the pandemic. Last year they launched their “Master Your Garden” series for the first time ever – a monthly class on the first Saturday of each month featuring various gardening topics and taught by Master Gardener volunteers or Extension staff.

Natural dyes are the focus of the April 2 class.

The series turned out to be a success as many public participants were looking for in-person learning opportunities to support existing garden hobbies or explore new gardening niches.   Master Gardeners decided to return to this style of programming for the 2022 event year and have developed a robust lineup of new topics.

“I really like this new format of offering classes for the public,” said Master Gardener Brenda Radzinski who taught a class on Roses in last year’s MYG lineup and will lead “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” in April this year. “I think the Master Your Gardener series is a more diverse style of educational outreach. It gives us the opportunity to offer a wider range of topics to those interested.”

The first class of the 2022 series will be on “Pollinators” on Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. in the Trolley Building at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. The class will feature honeybees and their native counterparts, as well as other pollinators that are vital to the life cycle of most flowering plants.

Master Gardener Chairperson Erica Joan Wanecski will open the program with an introductory presentation on “Mutualism – Partnerships in Nature,” discussing how different animals, insects and plants have evolved together in mutually beneficial relationships.

The headline presentation on “Pollinators” will be taught by Geri Hens, a Master Beekeeper, tenured environmental educator, and owner of Hens Honeybee Farm in Niagara County.

Master Gardener Jena Buckwell will lead two presentations in this year’s MYG lineup – Meet Your Mulch, and IPM for Snails and Slugs.

Initially approached to do a presentation specifically on Honeybees, Hens wanted to make sure the native pollinators that often go unnoticed received their share of attention and appreciation. Her presentation will be an in-depth conversation about the roles of insects and their habitats, the threats facing our local ecosystems, and things homeowners can do to mitigate those threats.

Hens brings decades of experience working with pollinators of all kinds, and she is backed not only by her formal credentialed training in beekeeping and environmental education but also her personal reflections from over thirty years of observing the ever-changing environment and its impacts.

The rest of the class series will feature topics such as vermicomposting (composting with worms), selecting the best mulch for your garden, local watershed protection, native plants and more!

For the full class schedule, see the Orleans County CCE website.  All classes are donation-based, community members can pay what they are able, with proceeds going to support other educational projects put together by the Master Gardeners like the returning Seed Bank project, a new Vegetable Variety Trial Garden, and tabling materials at local events.

“Our Master Gardener Volunteers are such an experienced bunch of gardeners with really varied areas of interest,” said Katie Oakes, coordinator of the Master Gardener program and Horticulture Educator at Orleans County CCE.  “They aren’t afraid to try new things, and when they have successes are so willing to share their knowledge with the public.  This MYG class series is the perfect outlet to extend those skills and experiences to our community members.”

For more information on this or any other Master Gardener event, contact Katie Oakes, at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or by email at klo54@cornell.edu.

Canal Corp. lights up Fairport lift bridge as part of new initiative

Photo by Philip Kamrass, New York Power Authority: The lift bridge in Fairport has been illumined as part of the state’s “Reimagine the Canals Initiative.” None of the canal bridges in Orleans County are currently planned to be lighted in a similar way.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 December 2021 at 12:13 pm

FAIRPORT – One of the state’s iconic lift bridges has been illumined as part of the “Reimagine the Canals” Initiative to boost tourism and draw attention to the historic waterway.

The LED lights were turned on the Fairport lift bridge on Tuesday. The State Canal Corp. also illumined two Oneida Lake lighthouses – one in Brewerton in Oswego County and another at Verona Beach in Oneida County.

The Canal Corp. doesn’t currently have plans to light up a bridge in Orleans County, which is home to seven of the 16 lift bridges. The next structure to be illumined will be on the eastern end of the Erie Canal in Herkimer County and should debut in the late spring/summer, said Shane Mahar, Canal Corp. spokesman.

“These key pieces of infrastructure helped us to build the New York we have today, and the new lighting features welcome New Yorkers and visitors alike to pause and recognize their crucial influence on our state’s history – and future,” said Brian Stratton, Canal Corp. director. “The illumination of these iconic structures enhances the communities along the canal and literally shines light onto our canal infrastructure for all to enjoy.”

The canal is nearly 200 years old. It opened in 1825. The state has looked for ways to better utilize the waterway, and that has included more irrigation for agriculture and supplementing tributaries with water until mid-December to boost fishing.

Opening day of the 198th consecutive season of navigation on the canal system is scheduled for May 20, 2022.

Christmas Bird Count will be Dec. 28 at Oak Orchard Swamp

Photos courtesy of Celeste Morien: A Tufted Titmouse was spotted at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Posted 7 December 2021 at 4:08 pm

Press Release, Celeste Morien, count compiler for Oak Orchard Swamp Christmas Bird Count

SHELBY – It’s close to that time again for the Oak Orchard Swamp Christmas Bird Count.

The count began in December 1968. The National Audubon Society has been sponsoring Christmas Bird Counts for 121 years and the Friends of Iroquois NWR, Inc. provide support for this local count.

Count compiler and Medina resident Celeste Morien would like the public to be alert for counters with spotting scopes and binoculars who will be out and about Dec. 28 on local roads, searching for birds in fields and at bird feeders.

Filling bird feeders now and keeping them stocked ahead of the count helps fulfill the count objective of counting all wild birds seen and heard within the circle! Our Oak Orchard Swamp count is centered at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge on the Orleans and Genesee County line at Route 63. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, which includes more than the refuge and state wildlife areas, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

According to the Audubon website, “Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns—whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America.

From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.

If your home is within the circle and you are at home on count day, you can report the birds that visit your feeders. To do so, please contact celeste.morien@gmail.com.

Please consider donating to the Christmas Count here since the Audubon Society no longer collects fees from each participant. Click here for more information.

For past results of any Christmas Bird Count, the National Audubon Society website is an excellent resource. Click here for more information.

A Song Sparrow blends in with the surroundings at the wildlife refuge. Last year there were 20,843 birds counted in 73 species.

NY to offer payments to secure more public access for fishing along nearby tributaries

Posted 4 December 2021 at 12:44 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

File photo by Tom Rivers: This angler tries to catch a big salmon in the Oak Orchard River.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new pilot program to improve public access along Western New York’s Lake Ontario tributaries receiving water from the Erie Canal in Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Canal Corporation, and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), have entered into a partnership to implement the “Access and Conservation Easement” program has been created to provide one-time payments to waterfront property owners to secure public fishing access and other conservation rights.

The eligible properties are along north flowing Lake Ontario tributaries which are currently and proposed to become part of the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program.

“Fishing during the fall season is a cornerstone of recreation in Western New York, and I am delighted to announce the expansion of our efforts to maintain optimal conditions and improve opportunities for anglers,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, this partnership between the state and local landowners in key fishing areas will connect community and conservation along the Lake Ontario tributaries and will provide New Yorkers with additional areas to cast a line while increasing tourism and bolstering local businesses.”

A Request for Expressions of Interest is being developed and will be issued to allow landowners in the designated areas to provide property and contact information to be considered for inclusion in the Program.

The ACE program will be piloted on several waterfront properties in Monroe, Orleans and Niagara counties selected through the RFEI and will follow a transparent process by which an easement price will be determined, with an option for landowners to opt-out at any point prior to reaching an agreement.

The easements will provide public fishing access and convey to the rights to maintain easement areas to improve water quality, enhance habitat, and reduce erosion. Easements or rights-of-way will reside with DEC ensuring public access and water quality improvements into the future.

NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “As part of our Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program, we are proud to create the ACE program in partnership with our colleagues at DEC. Conservation efforts are crucial for our State’s environmental protection, and we look forward to the numerous benefits this program will provide communities and anglers who take advantage of New York’s world-class fishing destinations.”

This map from the State Canal Corp. shows where the state uses canal water to supplement local tributaries and boost fishing opportunities for the fall salmon runs.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “For two seasons now the Canal Corporation has been increasing regulated water releases from the storied Erie Canal to improve spawning conditions and enhance angling opportunities in Western New York. These efforts are another example of how our Canal system connects our past with the present and the ACE program is a perfect complement to our Fall Fishing Program by providing anglers more and better access.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Segos said, “Developed with our partners at the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation, the Reimagine the Canals Access and Conservation Easement program is a creative approach to enhancing public access to quality fishing experiences in Western New York, drawing anglers from across the state to experience the region’s world-class angling opportunities while protecting water quality and the environment at each site. DEC is pleased to collaborate on the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing initiative, which is bolstering fall fishing opportunities and local economies across Western New York.”

Based on an analysis of current and future public access needs, NYPA estimates investing up to $1.25 million over ten years into the ACE program. This program will expand New York’s Fall Fishing Program, which releases water, when appropriate, over an extended period to increase the flows in Lake Ontario tributaries throughout the fall and extends the draining of the Erie Canal to create optimal fishing opportunities and a longer season for anglers.

For more information on New York State’s Fall Fishing Program, visit the Canal Corporation’s website.

Virtual workshop offers insights to protect shoreline along Lake Ontario

Posted 29 November 2021 at 3:10 pm

Press Release, New York Sea Grant

Water, wind, waves, and time, even the gentle lapping of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, erodes the Great Lakes shoreline.

To mitigate the impact of shoreline erosion, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy L. Widrig is inviting waterfront property owners to participate in online workshops on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9.

The 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. workshop on Dec. 7 will focus on the Western Lake Ontario shoreline areas of Niagara and Orleans counties.

The action and impact of Lake Erie on properties in Erie and Chautauqua counties will be featured in the Dec. 9 workshop from 1 pm to 4 pm. To register for either or both workshops, click here or contact 315-312-3042 or SGOswego@cornell.edu for assistance.

“The processes of erosion and accretion along Lakes Erie and Ontario share some similarities, but vast differences in the physical makeup of their shorelines, and the differences in approaching management options must be considered when planning a project,” says Widrig, author of the “Erosion Management for New York’s Great Lakes Shorelines Guide.”

In each workshop, Widrig will cover ways to address such issues as planning for lake level variations, designing and maintaining seawalls or rock rip-rap, water pooling in yards or basements, and general coastal processes. Participants will learn how they can freely access his expertise through the New York Sea Grant “Virtual Shoreline Visit” tool.

Locally-based New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of State and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel will discuss the permitting process for shoreline projects and answer questions as part of each workshop.

Workshop participants will see before and after photos of properties where options to achieve better drainage, bluff stabilization, and use nature-based features or traditional structures have been applied to manage erosion. Widrig will also share tips as the author of “Working with Nature: A Guide to Native Plants for New York’s Great Lakes Shorelines.”

New York Sea Grant, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021-2022. It maintains Great Lakes offices in Oswego, Newark and Buffalo. For more information on Great Lakes coastal processes and erosion, click here.

Erie Canal closed Wednesday night after 197th season

Provided photo: Katie Oakes sent in this photo she took last week of the Erie Canal in Medina.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 October 2021 at 9:06 am

The Erie Canal closed to boaters on Wednesday evening, ending the 197th navigation season on the historic waterway.

The season started on May 21 and was more normal than 2020. Covid restrictions delayed the start of the season last year until June 26. The start was pushed back because 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.

The Canal Corp. this year didn’t charge any tolls or fees for recreational use of the canal system. This is the fifth straight year the tolls have been waived. Those tolls are normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel.

Medina Bluebird Trail counts 168 birds fledged from 45 bird houses

Photos courtesy of Daniel Rosentreter: These photos from the summer show house wrens at left and freshly hatched bluebirds.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 September 2021 at 10:27 am

MEDINA – The 45 birdhouses on the new Medina Memorial Bluebird Trail proved popular spots for birds to nest this spring and summer.

There were 168 birds fledged from the boxes – 124 house wrens, 29 bluebirds and 15 tree swallows.

Daniel Rosentreter is the leader of the effort. He secured the Medina Village Board permission to install the bird houses near the perimeter of Boxwood Cemetery, Butts Park, Gulf Park, Lions Park, Pine Street Park and State Street Park.

He secured some donations with the boxes as memorials for community members. He worked with volunteers – Scott Grimm, Delbert Young and Bridget DiCureia – to install the bird houses on ¾-inch galvanized electrical pipe.

Daniel Rosentreter is pleased with the success of the Medina Memorial Bluebird Trail. There are 45 bird houses at five parks in Medina  as well as Boxwood Cemetery.

Rosentreter checked the boxes weekly to see if there was any activity, and he took photos of what he saw with his phone and posted the pictures on the Facebook page for the Medina Memorial Bluebird Trail.

Sometimes he opened the box to see a bird on the nest, getting ready to lay an egg. He has pictures of the eggs, freshly hatched babies and feathered birds ready to fledge and leave the nest.

“We’re helping them to repopulate,” said Rosentreter, a wildlife photographer and customer service representative for a local insurance company. “They will go wherever they can find a house.”

Birds have lost some of their nesting areas with many dead or decaying trees taken down in the community. Those trees have cavities for birds to make nests and lay eggs.

This bird house is installed at State Street Park near the Erie Canal.

He is grateful the Medina village officials welcomed the bluebird trail and that the birds responded to the houses.

Rosentreter, 29, has been a wildlife photographer for about eight years. He got into birding about four years ago.

“It’s peaceful and quiet,” he said about bird watching. “You see how birds interact in their own environment.”

The birdhouses on the trail are in open areas which are popular for bluebirds and in wooded spots that are more appealing to house wrens.

Rosentreter said some of the birdhouses may be relocated to where there are less people. There is one at State Street Park near the pavilion where bands play. That is a little too loud for the birds, Rosentreter said.

He would like to create a not-for-profit organization to keep the trail going for years to come, and possibly expand.

Hochul highlights increased water flows from canal to boost fishing

Posted 22 September 2021 at 8:13 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

File photo by Tom Rivers: The Oak Orchard River is one of several tributaries that will have its water levels boosted to improve the local fall fishery.

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the New York State Canal Corporation is again increasing regulated water releases from the Erie Canal into Lake Ontario tributaries in Western New York this fall to extend fishing opportunities and enhance world-class fishing destinations.

Now in its second year, the pilot program through the New York Power Authority’s Reimagine the Canals initiative is improving spawning conditions and enhancing angling opportunities in Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties – an effort that helps to increase tourism and bolster local businesses.

“Western New York already offers some of the best fishing in the nation, and the Reimagine the Canals initiative is helping to enhance this reputation,” Governor Hochul said. “The fall fishing program is a fantastic and strategic use the Erie Canal to make tributaries even better for anglers – from the most-experienced to someone casting a line for the first time. With these unique fishing opportunities, upstate New York is attracting an even wider breadth of visitor from both near and far, giving a significant boost to local and state economies.”

Now through mid-December, the New York State Canal Corporation is increasing regulated water releases from the Erie Canal into Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara County’s premier streams – Oak Orchard Creek, Sandy Creek and newly added in 2021, Eighteenmile Creek. In early November and again in early December, all Lake Ontario tributaries – including Oak Orchard, Sandy, Eighteenmile, Johnson, and Salmon Creeks – will see higher flows.

These elevated flows will entice more brown trout, steelhead, and Atlantic and Pacific salmon to run up these streams, by improving conditions for the fish and providing expanded opportunities for anglers.

As part of a continued enhancement of Western New York’s fishing opportunities, the Canal Corporation has also launched a website that provides anglers with information about when and where the increased water releases will take place. The landing page (click here) includes a calendar of water releases, provides links to public fishing locations, and additional resources and background for casual and serious anglers alike.

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, “The success of our fall fishing program last year proved that the Erie Canal continues to be a lifeline of economic stimulation across Upstate and Western New York. NYPA is proud to usher in the second year of this program, and we look forward to continuing to build on the innovative ways in which the Canal system contributes to the economic success of New York’s economy.”

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “As the close of the Canal navigation season nears, it is a pleasure to ring in the fall fishing season in a way that benefits both anglers and tourists, as well as Western New York’s canalside businesses and communities. By increasing the flow of water into key tributaries, anglers will once again be able to enjoy a longer fishing season and an even better fishing opportunity.”

Volunteers collect 311 pounds of trash in shoreline cleanup

Provided photos: The volunteers are shown with the collected trash on Saturday.

Posted 22 September 2021 at 3:10 pm

Press Release, Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District

ALBION –  On Saturday groups of enthusiastic volunteers came to participate in the American Littoral Society’s annual New York State Shoreline Cleanup and collected 311 pounds of trash.

The local cleanup is overseen and organized by the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District. The volunteers, consisting of USDA employees, 4-H members and Girl Scout Troop 82007 were split into groups and sent to different locations to remove litter from nearby waterways.

This year’s cleanup sites were Oak Orchard Dam, Canal Widewaters, Glenwood Lake and Point Breeze. The groups met up at Bullard Park in Albion to receive instructions and materials before getting sent to their respective sites.

Girl Scout Troop 82007 hunted down lots of litter.

Every piece of debris collected was categorized and recorded on data sheets, which were then summarized and sent back to the American Littoral Society. The Littoral Society uses the data from groups across the country for statistical analysis. This allows them to observe and track trends in sources of trash.

Some of the more commonly found items this year were used masks and cans, with a few unusual finds such as a kiddie pool. This event was sponsored locally by the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District in conjunction with the Orleans County Water Quality Coordinating Committee.

The Soil & Water crew includes from left: Katie Sommerfeldt, Megan McAnn and Melissa Rivelis.