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Stranded boaters to have three days to get through canal

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
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— Boaters blocked by an unexpected construction project on the Erie Canal will get a chance to head east or west next week thanks to a break in the work schedule.

Locks 12-14 were shut down last week for emergency repairs at Lock 13, where a hole beneath the movable dam’s center pier was found by a crew from Tioga Construction. They’ve been on the site since 2010 as part of a $15.5 million rehabilitation project.

State Canal Corp. spokesman Shane Mahar said contractors and engineers found a three-day window in the construction process that will allow boats through in either direction, albeit with a reduced depth.

The Lock 13 movable dam won’t be put into place as it is during the regular navigation season, but a pool will be formed between locks 12 and 14 that will provide a depth of 7 feet at the lower end of Lock 14 and 8 feet in the Mohawk River channel between locks 13 and 14. Boats will be able to pass from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, to Sunday, Oct. 6.

“We are able to allow a limited opening once the initial concrete repairs have been made and the dam is structurally sound,” Mahar said.

He said it’s unclear how many boats are waiting to travel in either direction, but he noted there are some moored in Waterford.

“Accommodating boaters on the canal is our first priority,” Mahar said.

The Canal Corp. is encouraging any boater seeking to make it through to take advantage of the three-day opportunity. After Oct. 6, east-west traffic will be blocked again, and may not reopen before the entire state canal system shuts down for the winter in mid-November.

“Final repairs to fully reopen will proceed after that and are expected to take several more weeks. That’s why it was essential to allow customers a window to proceed through,” Mahar said.

Tioga Construction was expected to complete the three-year project this year, but work was hampered by tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011 and again by flash flooding that devastated Fort Plain earlier this summer.

The crew was working in the safety of a coffer dam when it started filling with water. An effort to plug the hole failed, and a diver sent down to check out what was happening found a hole larger than a car beneath the center pier of the 96-year-old structure.

Mahar said construction crews and Canal Corp. personnel have been on the scene since the discovery.

 
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