State officials anticipate having the flood-damaged Erie Canal sufficiently repaired to allow boat traffic by Thanksgiving.
Gov. Andrew 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 canal has 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 stuck. Two large tour boats are among the many left stranded on the Great Lakes since Tropical Storm Irene hit upstate New York 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 Monday. “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 supported the adjacent Route 103, causing a huge chunk 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.
In a statement released Monday, Canal Corporation Director Brian 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.
Calls to Cuomo and Stratton for further comment were not returned Monday. A spokeswoman with the canal corporation declined to answer any further questions about the work or unscheduled opening.
The navigation season typically ends in mid-November and the moveable dams are raised completely to greatly reduce 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.
State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carol Breen said there is still no timetable for reopening the Route 103 bridge over the Mohawk adjacent to Lock 9. The route is one of only three ways to access Rotterdam Junction.
The river continues to erode the abutment area where the roadway collapsed at the peak of flooding after Tropical Storm Lee. Breen said the water remains too high for DOT workers to see for certain how badly damaged the bridge structure is.
“It looks like the structure is in good shape,” she said. “But we don’t have a time frame for it [to be repaired] at this point.”
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Categories: Business, Schenectady County