Danger lurking for boaters on Mohawk River

The Mohawk River may be too dangerous right now for casual boaters, the state Canal Corp. warned Tue

The Mohawk River may be too dangerous right now for casual boaters, the state Canal Corp. warned Tuesday.

Crew teams have been advised to stay out of the water, even though they do not go through any of the locks along the Erie Canal.

It’s not an official ban, though, said Canal Corp. spokesman R.W. Groneman.

“It’s a matter of caution,” he said. “There’s a safety issue here. There’s a lot of debris in the water. There’s very heavy currents and uncertain currents. It just might not be a good idea at this time.”

The river is chocked with submerged trees and other debris — including parts of washed-away buildings. Making matters worse, some of the debris is hidden under the high water, making it hard to avoid.

Niskayuna High School crew members are practicing on land, but some other rowers have gone back out, maneuvering around large trees sticking out of the water.

Niskayuna Athletic Director Larry Gillooley said his students won’t go into the water until the Canal Corp. says it’s safe.

“We go on the advisement of the Canal Corp.,” he said. “Eventually, when they get those locks open, there’s going to be a huge surge of water. And they’re working on debris, but it seems every time they take three logs out, two more go floating down. It’s a big mess.”

In Schenectady, city officials said the main hazard is submerged debris, not raw sewage. Although sewage was released into the river at the height of Tropical Storm Irene’s surge through the area, they said water levels were so high that the sewage was immediately diluted.

Sewage pump stations were brought back online the next morning, city officials said, so they don’t think city sewage fouled the river.

“But the submerged trees — I wouldn’t put a boat in that water,” said city Solid Waste Supervisor William Macejka. “I’d be afraid a tree would come right up through the boat.”

The lock system is closed indefinitely to all vessels because of storm damage.

Categories: Schenectady County

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