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nature & waterways

Free canal calendars will be available locally

Posted 25 November 2019 at 9:31 pm

Courtesy of Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor: The cover of the 2020 Erie Canalway Calendar features the Tugboat Erie, in this photo by Frank Forte of Little Falls.

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The public is invited to pick up a free 2020 Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor calendar starting December 1, 2019 at selected libraries and visitor centers throughout the National Heritage Corridor. The calendar features winning images from this year’s Erie Canalway photo contest.

(Editor’s Note: Locally the calendars will be available at the public libraries in Albion, Holley, Medina, Brockport and Middleport.)

“The calendar showcases the unique beauty, history, and character of New York’s canals and canal communities,” said Bob Radliff, Erie Canalway Executive Director. “We hope it inspires people to preserve and celebrate our incredible canal heritage.”

Calendars will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, thanks to generous sponsorship by the NYS Canal Corporation.

This year’s cover features 1st Place winner Tugboat Erie by Frank Forte of Little Falls, NY.

See a list of calendar distribution sites by visiting

The 2020 Erie Canalway Photo Contest opens in May 2020. The public is invited to submit images taken year-round within the National Heritage Corridor.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York, encompassing the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities.

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission and the Erie Canalway Heritage Fund work in partnership to preserve our extraordinary heritage, to promote the Corridor as a world-class tourism destination, and to foster vibrant communities connected by the waterway.

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NY accepting applications for businesses hurt by Lake Ontario flooding

Posted 22 November 2019 at 5:36 pm

$30 million available for businesses in Orleans, 7 other counties

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the application period for the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program is now open to businesses and other organizations directly impacted by the historic flooding of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River earlier this year.

The Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative Commission has made available up to $30 million to support resiliency-related capital improvement projects at affected businesses and other eligible organizations, which may qualify for reimbursement of up to 50 percent of project costs, with a maximum award of $200,000.

“The historic flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River left unprecedented damage in its wake, and we have committed significant resources to help ensure impacted businesses can make repairs, recover and once again drive our regional economies forward,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we continue to focus on regionally-significant rebuilding and resiliency efforts, it is critical to make this funding available to businesses as it will provide much needed support and financial relief and help all communities with their recovery efforts.”

Eligible applicants include most private businesses, homeowner’s associations, certain not-for profits, farms, and owners of multiple dwellings used for business purposes located in the eight-county coverage area.

Additional requirements include:

• Applicants must have been impacted by flooding between January 1, 2019 through October 31, 2019, or, if not directly damaged and sufficient funding is available, possess a demonstrated vulnerability to future flood-related damage.

• Applicants must receive a local matching contribution from their municipality totaling at least 5 percent of the program assistance funds. This contribution may include, but is not limited to:

  • Tax abatements and exemptions, including from an Industrial Development Authority
  • Local government fee waivers of the costs of ordinarily due permits and fees
  • Direct expenditures by local governments on project-related infrastructure costs

Eligible capital projects must reduce the applicant’s vulnerability to risks that were experienced during the high water events along the shores of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and other nearby waterways such as flooding or erosion.

Examples of eligible projects could include:

• Elevating and or moving, landward, non-water dependent features such as offices, restrooms, stores, restaurants, parking or boat storage;

• Raising/relocating fueling facilities;

• Converting to floating docks or other docks that allow for movement with water levels (adapted to both high and low water) such that docks can raise to a minimum elevation;

• Strengthening existing dockage by evaluating and strengthening connection points between dock sections (typically the weakest point in a dock’s design); and

• Retaining and/or creating vegetated buffers along the waterfront.

Applications must be postmarked by January 31, 2020. Applications and program guidelines, including the full list of project criteria, are available on the Empire State Development website (click here).

The funding is a component of Governor Cuomo’s REDI, which includes a multi-agency commission that has been studying ways to strengthen infrastructure along Lake Ontario’s waterfront while bolstering the region’s local economies. Through REDI, the State has committed up to $300 million to rebuild the shoreline, as well as improve resiliency in flood prone regions along Lake Ontario.

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner, President & CEO-Designate and REDI Commission Co-Chair Eric Gertler said, “Businesses are a key part of a community’s vibrancy, and their resilience is essential to a region’s long-term economic success. We have partnered with all stakeholders throughout the REDI process, including the business community, to ensure the necessary expertise and resources are available to not only rebuild, but to rebuild to a higher standard of resiliency in the face of future storms.”

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NY files expanded lawsuit against IJC over lake levels

Photo by Tom Rivers: Waves pound the shoreline at the Yates Town Park on Oct. 23.

Posted 17 November 2019 at 3:08 pm

State seeking $50 million-plus in damages

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Building on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s lawsuit against the International Joint Commission, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James on Friday filed an expanded lawsuit on behalf of New York State against the IJC for failing to implement its flood protocol for the Moses-Saunders Power Dam.

Specifically, the IJC operated under a protocol known as “Plan 2014,” which required that when water levels reach extremely high levels, the dam “shall be operated to provide all possible relief to the riparian owners upstream and downstream.” As a result of the IJC’s actions and failures to act in response to flooding in 2017 and 2019, New York incurred substantial and potentially avoidable damages.

This lawsuit expands on the suit filed by DEC last month by also including damages incurred by all state agencies, including DEC, which collectively number over $50 million.

“The IJC’s mismanagement of Lake Ontario water levels wreaked havoc on vulnerable shoreline communities and the resulting damage carries a stiff price that shouldn’t be shouldered by the State of New York or by the very property owners the Commission was supposed to protect,” Governor Cuomo said. “The IJC has been wholly unresponsive to our complaints and have taken no action to make the situation better, and this expanded lawsuit will allow us to better recoup the costs of the damage and to hold the Commission accountable.”

Attorney General Letitia James said, “The International Joint Commission failed their primary mission of properly managing Lake Ontario’s water levels. We will not stand by while the IJC continues to expose New Yorkers to dangerous flooding. The individuals and families along the shoreline do not deserve the pain of having to deal with the damages to their homes and businesses—damages that could have been avoided in the first place. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will bring safety, security, and justice to those most impacted by IJC’s negligence.”

OAG is bringing this action on behalf of the departments and agencies of the State of New York, including, but not limited to the DEC; the Department of Transportation; the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services; the Division of Military and Naval Affairs; and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Directed by Governor Cuomo, DEC initiated litigation against the IJC on October 9, 2019. Today’s action incorporates DEC’s prior complaint, as well as adding impacts to other New York State agencies.

The Office of the Attorney General and Governor Cuomo’s Office seek compensatory damages in excess of $50 million dollars for damages that include:

• Damages to state property;

• Damages consisting of monies the State spent and will spend to repair harms to property, municipalities, and residents;

• and Damages to natural resources, including the value of lost recreational activities.

Flooding on the shores of Lake Ontario in 2017 cost the State damages in excess of $4 million, which included damage to State parks, beaches, campgrounds, boat docks, and boat launches. This was disastrous for thousands of businesses and New Yorkers along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga, Jefferson, and St. Lawrence counties.

Additionally, in 2019, flooding cost State property damages in excess of $2 million. The public lost the value of the use of some facilities while they were closed for repairs or remained submerged under floodwaters. An emergency was declared for the counties of Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wayne as a result of the damage caused by continued high Lake Ontario water levels. The State activated the State Emergency Operations Center for 125 days to conduct operations across eight New York counties and hundreds of miles of shoreline.

Several State agencies also incurred substantial expenses in connection with their responses to the flooding. DEC and the New York National Guard fortified public and private shorefront property with water barriers and other equipment. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) deployed sandbags, sandbagging machines, pumps, and water barriers.

DHSES also activated the State Emergency Operations Center for 125 days to conduct operations across eight New York Counties and hundreds of miles of shoreline. The Department of Transportation oversaw sandbag filling operations and activated its incident command system. In total, State agencies’ response costs exceeded $37 million.

Additionally, the State has spent more than $100 million dollars helping homeowners, small businesses, municipalities, and others repair property damage from flooding in 2017 and 2019. These funds have been distributed through New York State Homes and Community Renewal in connection with the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Seaway Flood Relief and Recovery Grant Program, as well as through Empire State Development and the Lake Ontario Small Business Recovery Fund.

The U.S.-Great Britain Boundary Waters Treaty, Plan 2014, the 2016 Supplementary Order of Approval, and other applicable laws impose a duty on IJC to operate the dam in a manner that safeguards the interests of riparian property owners on the New York shores of Lake Ontario and that meets a standard of reasonable care for those property owners.

This matter is being handled for the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau by Assistant Attorney General Matthew J. Sinkman, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is under the supervision of Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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DEC seeks comments on proposed Great Lakes fishing regulations

Posted 21 October 2019 at 4:45 pm

State considers extending the open season for lake trout on Lake Ontario

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is seeking angler feedback on proposed fishing regulation changes for New York’s Great Lakes.

The proposed changes are designed to safeguard and expand certain fish populations while enhancing anglers’ continued enjoyment of these world-class fisheries. The majority of the proposals are a direct result of DEC’s work with anglers during the past several years to identify desired outcomes for Lake Ontario sport fishery management.

“I encourage Great Lakes anglers to share their comments on these proposed regulations, which are intended to make New York’s world-class Great Lakes fishing even better,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Potential regulation changes include:

• extending the open season for lake trout on Lake Ontario and the Lower Niagara River;

• decreasing the daily creel limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario;

• decreasing the brown trout daily creel limit and increasing the minimum size limit for rainbow trout/steelhead on Lake Ontario tributaries; and

• eliminating a special Lake Erie tributary regulation now deemed unnecessary in an ongoing effort to simplify New York fishing regulations.

Following a review of public comments received and further evaluation this winter, DEC may advance these proposals for formal adoption in 2020. DEC welcomes and encourages feedback on the proposed regulation changes currently under consideration.

To view these proposals and provide input, visit DEC’s website. Comments will be accepted through Dec. 14. Comments and questions can also be directed to Steve LaPan, Great Lakes Fisheries Section Head, at: New York State DEC, P.O. Box 292, Cape Vincent, NY 13618.

Canal will close for the season on Oct. 16

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 October 2019 at 12:46 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: A boater heads east in Albion last week after passing under the Ingersoll Street lift bridge.

The canal season closes on Oct. 16. The 195thannual canal season opened on May 17. There have been no tolls or fees for recreational use of the canal system this year.

The Canal Corporation waived tolls again this year for recreational vessels as the state continues to commemorate 200 years of Erie Canal history. The Erie Canal was under construction from 1817 to 1825.

The Canal Corp. also waived the tolls in 2017 and 2018. Those tolls are normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel.

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Erie Canalway announces photo contest winners

This photo of the Canal Park in Waterford won first place in the Canal Communities category of the 14th Annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. It was taken by Wesley Merritt, Clifton Park.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 October 2019 at 10:08 am

Image of Holley Waterfalls receives an honorable mention

The winning photos in the 14th Annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest have been announced by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

The 12 winning images will be showcased in the 2020 Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor calendar, which will be available for free at libraries and visitor centers beginning in December.

The first place winner in “Classic Canal” shows the Tugboat Erie in Little Falls. The photo was taken by Frank Forte of Little Falls.

Judges selected first, second and third place photographs in four contest categories from nearly 250 entries. In addition, twelve photographs received an honorable mention, including one that shows the Holley Waterfalls.

“These beautiful photos showcase the dramatic landscapes, rich heritage, and vibrant communities along this historic waterway,” said Bob Radliff, Erie Canalway Executive Director. “We hope they inspire people to explore this extraordinary place and celebrate the canal that built the Empire State.”

Click here to see the winning photos.

This photo of the Holley Waterfalls was one of 12 photos to receive an honorable mention. It was taken by Lois Ann Matteson of Penfield.

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Photos sought for annual contest celebrating canal

Photo by Tom Rivers: A bicycle is dressed up with flowers to beautify the canal path in Hulberton in this photo from last week.

Posted 12 August 2019 at 9:38 am

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD- Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit entries for the 14th annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Photos should convey the wealth of things to do and see along the waterway and express the beauty and unique character of the canal and canal communities. Winning photos will be featured in the 2020 Erie Canalway calendar.

Entries must be postmarked by Aug. 30. Submissions must be horizontal format only. Photos must be taken within the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The Corridor spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York. It encompasses the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities.

Judges select first, second, and third place winners based on creativity, photographic quality, and effectiveness in conveying the beauty and unique character of the Canalway. Winning images are displayed in the annual Erie Canalway Calendar.

Download official contest rules and an entry form at

About the Erie Canalway

Nearly 200 years after its construction, the Erie Canal remains an iconic symbol of American ingenuity and determination. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor preserves our extraordinary canal heritage, promotes the Corridor as a world-class tourism destination, and fosters vibrant communities connected by more than 500 miles of waterway. It achieves its mission in partnership with the National Park Service, New York State agencies, non-profit organizations, local residents, and more than 200 communities across the full expanse of upstate New York.

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Governor signs law requiring power boat operators to take safety classes

Posted 7 August 2019 at 8:22 am

Press Release, Governor Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (S.5685/A.4853.A) – or Brianna’s Law – to phase in requirements that all operators of motorized watercraft must complete a state-approved boating safety course.

Brianna’s Law is named after Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old Long Island girl who was killed in a 2005 boating accident. The Governor also directed State Parks to launch a boating safety promotional campaign to remind boaters of the new requirement to take a safety course.

There are nearly 439,000 registered powerboats in the state, according to the 2018 state Recreational Boating Report. The law does not apply to operators of sailboats, kayaks, standup paddleboards, rowboats or canoes.

“Boating has become much more popular and our rules and our laws really have not kept pace with it,” Governor Cuomo said. “There should be a basic level of knowledge that you have before you’re given the permission to go out there and operate a boat, and making a safety course mandatory is common sense. It protects the operator of the boat and everyone that operator could come into contact with, and it will make our waters safer. It took a horrific accident to make this situation real for people, but through this law Brianna is saving lives and her love lives on.”

The measure expands an earlier law signed by Governor Cuomo that requires boaters born after May 1, 1996 to complete a safety course before operating a motorized watercraft. Under the phase-in, all motor boat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1993 must complete a safety course to operate a motor boat beginning in 2020.

Those born after Jan. 1, 1988 must complete a safety course beginning in 2022. Those born on or after Jan. 1, 1983 must complete a safety course beginning in 2023. Those born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must complete a safety course beginning in 2024.

The requirement would extend to all motor boat operators beginning in 2025, regardless of age. Failure to comply could result in a fine of between $100 and $250 under the new law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which administers the law, estimates that there are nearly one million boaters who will have to take the safety courses before the end of the phase-in on Jan. 1, 2025.

The law allows for the continued acceptance of State Parks approved internet-based learning and certification to meet this new demand. Classroom courses will also continue to be available. Information about both internet and in-classroom courses can be found on the State Parks’ website.

Governor Cuomo also directed State Parks to launch a boating safety promotional campaign to ensure that boaters are aware of the new requirement to take a course online or in person and to promote safety on our waterways, including radio and social media advertisements; distribution of informational materials to law enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, marinas, boating education instructors and boating safety partners; and State Parks website updates.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “New York State offers some of the best boating and fishing adventures in the country. The best way to enjoy these adventures is to do so safely. It makes sense that for every boater to learn the basics of boating safety before operating a motor boat.”

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Fishing Derby starts today with $8,800 in prizes, including $4K for biggest fish

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 August 2019 at 11:24 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Kent Morgan, owner of Let It Ride Charters in Carlton, holds the grand prize fish from the 2018 fishing derby organized by the Albion Rotary Club. The 29-pound, 14-ounce salmon was caught by Morgan’s customer, Joseph Miller of Harrisburg, Pa. The big fish won the $4,000 grand prize.

The annual Rotary Fishing Derby starts today and continues until Aug. 18 with $8,800 in prizes available. The angler who catches the biggest fish in the derby wins $4,000.

Participants in the derby can enter fish in four divisions: Chinook salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, and lake trout.

Besides $4,000 for the biggest fish, the four division leaders each get $500, followed by $300 for second, $200 for third, $100 for fourth and $50 for fifth.

There is also a $200 prize to the Orleans County resident who catches the biggest fish.

The derby is sponsored by the Albion Rotary Club, and proceeds go towards community projects. The Rotary Club has been organizing the derby for more than 30 years, seeing the event as a way to promote tourism businesses and the local fishing scene.

This year the derby has been rebranded as the Rotary Fishing Derby after being known as the Orleans County Fishing Derby.

Marlee Diehl, a member of the Albion Rotary Club, is chairwoman of the event and has lined up many businesses to sell registrations which are $15 a day or $25 for the entire 16-day derby. Click here to see the sites.

She wants to top at least 500 registrants for the derby.

The Rotary Club runs the derby to promote tourism and the fishing resources in the community. The derby is also a fundraiser for the Rotary Club, which uses the proceeds for community service projects.

“Orleans County is a destination,” Diehl said. “We’re fortunate to have a Tourism Department that realizes it and promotes our fishery.”

An awards celebration at 4 p.m. on Aug. 18 at the Carlton Rec Hall is open to the community. There will be sausage and hot dogs served, and a chance to see the winning fish.

The derby coincides with an initiative from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to offer free fishing on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the lower Niagara River from Aug. 2 through Labor Day, Sept. 2.

For more on the derby, click here.

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Bald eagle shown getting a fish in Lake Ontario

Staff Reports Posted 22 July 2019 at 5:16 pm

Photos courtesy of Beth Carpenter

YATES – Beth Carpenter of Lyndonville was at a friend’s property this morning by Lake Ontario in Yates when she saw a bald eagle swoop out of a dead tree and go after an osprey that had just caught a fish.

“For me wildlife photos is all about being at the right place at the right time,” she said. “I don’t consider myself a professional. Today was one of those moments.”

She clicked away while the eagle chased the osprey, which then dropped the fish in the lake. The bald eagle then went for the fish and got it.

“I am so happy to see more eagles in our area!” Carpenter said.

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