Ortt says state agency did poor job of notifying public of canal tree-cutting plan

Photos by Tom Rivers: Tree stumps are shown by the Erie Canal in Albion on Nov. 16. The State Canal Corp. hired a contractor to cut down many trees on canal-owned land in Orleans and Monroe counties.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2018 at 11:36 am

State Sen. Rob Ortt, left, speaks during a legislative luncheon on Friday at Tillman’s Village Inn. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, right, was among the elected officials who spoke during the event organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

GAINES – State Sen. Robert Ortt said a controversial tree-cutting plan along the Erie Canal should have included more public input.

“The officials found out after the fact,” Ortt said during a legislative luncheon on Friday.

About 85 people attended the luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn. Ortt was among the elected officials who spoke at the meeting. One of the questions raised was the tree-cutting plan by the Canal Corp. A contractor started removing trees on canal-owned land by the towpath in October.

As the trees were cut down, opposition grew as the contractor headed east. The Canal Corp. recently announced it wouldn’t cut down more live trees in Monroe County. Residents and elected officials in Brighton, Perinton and Pittsford opposed the tree-clearing, which started in October in Medina and headed east.

Ortt faulted the Canal Corp., which operates under the New Yrk Power Authority, for not making the communities aware of the extent of the project.

The Canal Corp. had public meetings about the project, including one in Medina in September. The Canal Corp. promoted the tree-clearing as a “vegetation management plan.” Canal Corp. leaders said the tree removal is long overdue. Cutting down the trees will make the banks easier to maintain and check for leaks.

“The idea that they could d this without a sense of any kind of public pushback shows how out of touch they are,” Ortt said during Friday’s luncheon.

The Canal Corp. didn’t communicate with elected officials about the full extent of the plan, Ortt said.

“This wasn’t a legislative decision,” Ortt said. “We basically found out after the fact. It was an agency decision.”

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