Schenectady County

Cuomo: Erie Canal to open for two weeks

Cuomo: Erie Canal to open for two weeks
PHOTOGRAPHER:

State officials anticipate having the flood-damaged Erie Canal restored to a state that will allow boat traffic by Thanksgiving.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Erie Canal will reopen to commercial and recreational traffic for a two-week period between late November and early December. The east-west portions of the canal have remained closed between Little Falls and Schenectady since major flooding damaged several of the moveable dam structures late last month.

The closure has left some vessels stranded. Two large tour boats are among the many left stranded on the Great Lakes since Tropical Storm Irene struck on Aug. 28.

“This is welcome news to boaters and commercial vessels with no other reasonable alternative to returning to their home ports,” Cuomo said in a statement released today. “We are pleased to be able to continue the important storm recovery efforts that will rebuild New York and restore our transportation infrastructure.”

Steel uprights holding the dam gates in place were left twisted and displaced from the massive flow of water that hammered the Mohawk River from the badly flooded Schoharie Valley. The storm water also washed away at least one of the lock houses and caused damage to the machinery used to operate the locks.

The Mohawk also carved out new channels around Lock 8 in Rotterdam, Lock 9 in the hamlet of Rotterdam Junction, and Lock 10 in the hamlet of Cranesville. At Lock 9, the new channel of the river scoured away an embankment that held up the adjacent Route 103, causing a massive swath of the roadway to collapse.

Cuomo said crews will conduct extensive repair efforts over the next two months. This includes fixing damaged truss structures, adding new hardware, restoring power to the locks, finishing debris removal efforts and installing temporary modular lock houses.

The canal will also be dredged. The massive flooding left large deposits that have blocked the river.

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said the reconstruction plans are based on recent damage assessments. He warned the required repairs and aggressive timetable for the work are both dependent on weather.

The navigation season typically ends in mid-November and the unique moveable dams are raised completely to greatly reduced the level of the Mohawk. Pulling the dams allows ice to flow downstream unobstructed once the river thaws in the late winter and early spring.

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