Storm damage repaired, Erie Canal reopens; Fort Plain still has work to do

The Erie Canal reopened Friday afternoon after being closed for nearly five days due to rainfall tha
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Categories: Schenectady County

The Erie Canal reopened Friday afternoon after being closed for nearly five days due to rainfall that washed tons of debris — including several Fort Plain residents’ garages and sheds — into the locks.

Meanwhile, officials were still assessing the damage in the western Montgomery County village, where Mayor Guy Barton sees the need for financial assistance.

The Erie Canal from Lock E-2 in Waterford to Lock E-21, west of Rome, was shut down Monday morning due to high water levels that followed heavy rainfall.

The National Weather Service reported between 1 and 3 inches of rain fell in the Capital Region on Aug. 22, but Barton in Fort Plain said he understands the village and town of Minden saw about 7 inches that day.

It swelled the Otsquago Creek, which took out several structures and routed residents along Abbott and Reid streets in the village.

Canal Corp. Director Carmella Mantello on Friday morning said tons of debris that washed into the Mohawk River got jammed between the movable gates.

The gates dam up sections of the river between the locks and maintain navigable reservoirs.

It took several days of work to get the gates in position — crews had to pull the debris onto barges and grind up as much as they could. Other debris was brought ashore and trucked away, Mantello said.

Numerous watercraft were moored between locks along the Waterford Flight and unable to move through the canal.

Other boats were waiting in the Hudson River to enter the system, she said.

Now that the canal is opened, Mantello said, boaters still have to be careful of displaced buoys and floating items.

“It’s going to take probably a good 48 hours to completely get the buoys back on station. We’re asking boaters to proceed with caution, there’s going to be some debris out there,” she said.

In Fort Plain, Barton said he and Montgomery County Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn walked Abbott and Reid streets to assess the damage and consider options that could prevent the Otsquago Creek from overflowing in the next big rainfall.

Reid Street is also state Route 80, and Barton believes the threat of washout now endangers the state roadway.

He said one option being discussed is placing large stones along the banks of the creek, which has been the focus of cleanup efforts after major flooding in 2006 and again in 2008.

That work entails dragging trees and other debris out of the channel to help improve the creek’s flow as it heads north to the Mohawk River.

Last week’s overflow was reminiscent of the 2006 flooding that wiped out homes and businesses along the river.

“There were trees hitting the bridges, it was a scary, scary few moments, that’s for sure,” said Barton, whose home is along the Otsquago Creek but escaped damage last week.

“Many people were not as fortunate as I was. They lost garages, parts of homes, 50, 40 feet of backyard. One guy lost a whole garage,” Barton said.

The village completed a two-day cleanup Friday after picking up flood-damaged items from residents.

The items lost included water heaters, stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers and personal effects covered with mud, Barton said.

He said it’s unclear yet what the cost of the cleanup will be, but he expects it to be small compared with shoring up the Otsquago Creek’s banks.

“I’m going to knock on every door I know to try to get help for our community,” Barton said.

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