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$49M from FEMA to fix canal locks

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
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— New York’s Canal Corporation has been awarded more than $49 million in reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help continue efforts to recover from the devastating tropical storms that battered the locks along the Mohawk River in 2011.

The funding will help cover more than half of the estimated $80 million in damages sustained by the Erie Canal system during the massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Though some of the work has already been completed, much more needs to be done to restore the lock facilities to their condition before the storm, said Brian Stratton, the canal corporation’s director.

“This is a major step in building New York’s canal system back stronger than ever,” he said in a statement released Monday. “This federal assistance will now give us the opportunity to restore what was lost and begin a new chapter in the history of New York’s canals.”

The Canal Corporation was also awarded $4.2 million in reimbursements as part of $34 million flood mitigation project announced in February. The project includes a number of improvements to the eight moveable dams along the river that will allow them to better handle flood events in the future.

Engineers are drafting plans to internally overhaul the electric winches — or “mules” — used to raise and lower dam components. The project also includes plans to replace chains, strengthen dam uprights with steel plates on their downstream face, replace bushings for rollers that the panels move on, and replace lights on the dams.

Real-time gauges are also slated to be installed both upstream and downstream of each of the dams. Water levels are now gauged visually using measurements on the dam facilities. “With this aid, we can maintain the important role that this waterway plays in New York’s economy, tourism and recreation industries,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The storms that occurred less than a week apart in late August 2011 and September 2011 wreaked havoc on the moveable dams that exist between Lock 8 in Rotterdam and Lock 12 near Tribes Hill. Debris carried by the badly swollen Mohawk River cluttered the moveable dam systems, choking the river and forcing it to go around the lock facilities, tearing away land as it did so.

The river carved deep channels around Lock 10 in Amsterdam, scouring deep pools into the park area surrounding the dam. Likewise, the river burst through an area north of Lock 9 in Rotterdam Junction, blasting through a 50-foot-wide section of embankment that carried Route 103 over the Mohawk.

Repairs were quickly made to the canal system, allowing it to open for navigation a little more than two months after the storms. But much of the work was preliminary, so that several dozen trapped boaters could get out of the canal system before winter set in.

 
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