High water level may delay state canal opening

Portions of the state canal system may open a bit late this year because of all the snow and rain th

Portions of the state canal system may open a bit late this year because of all the snow and rain that’s complicating efforts to get the dam structures in place.

The Canal Corp. typically aims for a May 1 opening date, but it all depends on the weather, according to spokesman R.W. Groneman.

Groneman in an email Monday said the system has opened as early as April 1 — that happened 65 years ago. The system’s latest opening occurred on June 5, 1993.

“May 1 is normally selected for planning and work scheduling purposes, but the water level in each section is always a factor that can change that date,” he said.

The canal system’s opening often signals the start of the warm weather season for some in upstate New York — and reservations are already being made at the canalside campsite in Montgomery County, the St. Johnsville Marina.

Longtime St. Johnsville marina manager Bernie Brandow on Monday said by the looks of the Mohawk River, he’s not expecting the Erie Canal to open Sunday.

“Everything is slowed up now,” he said.

The marina is all set to go, as are the 23 campsites, but Brandow said the water’s too high to get the docks out for boats.

High water makes it dangerous for Canal Corp. workers to try to engage the mechanisms at each lock that form reservoirs in between them.

The water level is regulated at each lock by movable dams. The movable dams consist of large arms, which are elevated during the off-season, and “pans” that slide down the arms, cutting off the flow of water until it rises to an adequate level for navigation purposes.

Dropping the arms and pans into the rushing power of the Mohawk River swelled by rain could cause injury and damage the mechanisms.

Canal workers also have to cruise out on the water to install buoys that help in navigation.

“As soon as conditions allow this work to proceed, the Canal Corporation will be able to update the projected opening schedule in various sections of the waterway,” Groneman said.

Precipitation is a major factor in decision-making, and there’s been plenty of it this year, according to Groneman, citing National Weather Service figures.

Rain since March 1 was reported at 7.6 inches — nearly 2 inches above the normal 5.8 inches.

And snowfall, measured at 87.2 inches in Albany, exceeds the norm by about 25 inches.

More information about the canal system can be found on the Internet at www.canals.ny.gov.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply