Erie Canal stretch to reopen Wednesday
CAPITAL REGION Yachts will be making their way west along the Mohawk River this morning following repairs to Erie Canal infrastructure that’s been battered by a tumultuous 2013 summer.
The New York State Canal Corporation on Tuesday announced the system from Lock E-11 in Amsterdam to Lock E-15 in Fort Plain — shut down after damage from flash floods that struck the Mohawk Valley on June 28 — will re-open to traffic at 8 a.m., allowing mariners a return to normalcy and letting contractors get back to work upgrading the century-old structures.
Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton lauded canal employees and contractors for their work in a news release issued Tuesday.
“I want to thank Canal Corporation employees and our contractors who have worked tirelessly to repair damage and safely reopen the system,” he said.
Mother Nature’s latest foray through the Mohawk Valley caused approximately $5 million in damage to the system’s movable dams, which have been undergoing an overhaul since tropical storms Irene and Lee inflicted more than $40 million worth of damage in 2011.
Spokesman Shane Mahar said the Canal Corp. will be applying for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency which, since a disaster was declared for the June 28 storms, may cover 75 percent of the cost of repairs.
The most recent closure of the canal section between Locks E-11 and E-15 extended so long due to the amount of trees, brush and other debris that smashed into the movable dam gates when massive rainfall overtook the region June 28.
“One of the biggest issues was all the debris loading,” Mahar said.
The system was shut down from Lock E-7 in Niskayuna to Lock E-19 in Frankfort on May 30 because of strong currents and high water levels from late-May storms that featured tornadoes in Schoharie, Schenectady and Montgomery counties.
This section reopened a day later, then damage to the New York Power Authority’s flashboards was found atop the Vischer Ferry Dam near Lock E-7, causing a warning that the water level would be dropped 12 to 16 inches, leaving boaters to contemplate the possibility of grounding in the pool above the lock.
High water closed the canal From E-6 to E-19 again June 11, and forecasts for severe weather prompted the Canal Corp. to open gates and lower the canal system to winter levels to ensure a free flow of the Mohawk River two days later.
Canal officials notified mariners June 26 of plans to reopen the local portion of the canal system from Lock E-8 in Glenville to E-15 in Fort Plain on June 28, but another deluge hit the Mohawk Valley that day, causing flooding so severe in Fort Plain that one resident was killed when the Otsquago Creek washed away her home.
Mahar on Tuesday said boaters were eagerly awaiting the canal’s reopening while moored in the Waterford Flight of Locks.
“We’ve got a lot of vessels that have been tied up … they’re all eager to keep moving west,” he said.
Some boaters decided to skip the Erie Canal after the late-June storms and instead headed north up the Champlain Canal, Mahar said.
Mariners are being warned that there’s still debris in the river, cleanup continues and some buoys are being moved back into position.
Also, the water’s depth in several areas of the canal between Lock E-12 in Tribes Hill and Lock E-20 in Marcy will be as low as 71⁄2 feet due to ongoing dredging.