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Canal closes due to big rain

125-mile disruption not seen as lengthy

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
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— Heavy flow from rainfall in the Mohawk River watershed forced the state Canal Corp. to shut down a 125-mile stretch of the Erie Canal on Tuesday, just 10 days after it opened for the season.

The canal system reported the shutdown from Lock E-2 in Waterford west to Lock E-22 in Sylvan Beach, Oneida County, at 12:38 p.m. The closure took place as the National Weather Service was issuing a “flood advisory” for Fulton and Montgomery counties and part of Herkimer County.

Canal Corp. spokeswoman Betsy Feldstein said 12 boats were on the canal system when it was shut down. “We were successfully able to clear most of the transient vessel traffic from the affected areas prior to the closure,” she said. There were two boats stuck Tuesday between locks, one at Lock E-7 in Niskayuna and another at Lock E-8, she said.

“We are currently working with about one dozen vessels to make sure that they are safe, secure and comfortable during this temporary, short-term closure of the canal,” Feldstein said.

High water levels will mean the New York Power Authority will wait until next week before installing flash boards at the Crescent and Vischer Ferry dams on the Mohawk River, according to John Osinski, power authority regulatory affairs director.

The annual installation project adds some height to the dams to raise water levels for easier navigation.

Though there’s more rain in the forecast for the next couple of days, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Frugis said the heaviest rains fell Tuesday.

“The good thing is the majority of the rainfall is done ... what we’ve already seen is basically the bulk of it,” he said.

The state saw a widespread, soaking rain Tuesday with the heaviest precipitation centered over the Mohawk Valley.

The rain is coming from a slow-moving storm system to the west. That system was expected to move through the region late Tuesday, bringing slightly warmer temperatures before a cold front forecast to hit the region late today. The cold front will likely bring scattered shower activity today and possibly Thursday.

“It does look like it should clear up by Friday and Saturday,” Frugis said.

It was unclear late Tuesday whether the closure would impact the schedule of kayakers Richard Harpham and Glenn Charles. The two launched a 500-mile trip from Niagara Falls headed east along the canal system May 1. They were scheduled to rest today anyway, according to Simon Bevan, their spokesman.

“I could be fortuitous scheduling,” he said.

State and local agencies are promoting the trip to the Statue of Liberty, dubbed the Spare Seat Expedition. Celebrations welcoming the kayakers are scheduled for Friday in St. Johnsville and Saturday in Amsterdam before the men make their way to Schenectady, Albany and then to New York City.

 
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