February 3, 2021
Good morning Canal New York Members and Affiliates,
I am not surprised that the early reaction to the attached news article, which appeared in the Buffalo News Tuesday morning has been swift and strong.
Recent NYPA presentations regarding the Reimagine the Erie program shared information concerning proposed changes to the canals’ 2021 navigation season. In the Buffalo News article (attached), it was reported that NYPA’s Canal Corporation Deputy Director David Mullen announced during the January 20 Western Region Council meeting that the 2021 navigation season will begin May 31 and end September 6.
In addition, the operating hours for lift bridges will be reduced from 7 am – 10 pm to 9 am – 7 pm.
- Opens Memorial Day, May 31st
- Closes mid-September 6
- Daily operating hours 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM(cut from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM)
Their justifications for the schedule reduction are:
(1) the volume of deferred infrastructure maintenance, a long-term challenge
(2) the impact of continuing COVID restrictions on maintenance work, a short-term challenge
(3) “low waterway usage” in the shoulder seasons (it will be even lower with the new schedule!).
The expectation is that the reduced operating schedule will be in place for the foreseeable future, beyond 2021, to address the maintenance backlog.
The NY Power Authority has formed four Canal Councils in connection with implementation of recommendations from its Reimagine the Canals Report, which was first released January 6, 2020 as part of the Governor’s State of the State Message. The four Councils have representatives seated from each of the following four regions: Western Region, Central Region, Mohawk Region and Champlain Region.
NYPA continues to advocate for a re-branding of the Erie Canal to the ‘Empire Line’. The change of name was originally to be announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2020 State of the State address, but it was deleted. It was included in the Governor’s budget message last week; specifically, the Governor’s address state that the NYPA Board “… will invest $300 million over the next five years to integrate the Empire State Trail and Erie Canal into a new ‘Empire Line’ system… “
Citing the importance of historic preservation for the state’s iconic waterway, the Preservation League of NYS, testifying at a public hearing January 27 about the Governor’s 2021-22 proposed budget, asserted that “. . . the best future for our NYS Canal System lies in capitalizing on its authenticity as the oldest, continuously-operating canal system in the nation. We also hope that the proposed renaming of our Erie Canal Corridor as the “Empire Line” is reconsidered, as the Erie Canal is one of New York State’s most authentic and iconic landmarks. I would imagine we would no sooner wish to rename the Erie Canal than we would Niagara Falls or the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Many Canal NY members believe the proposed policies would severely affect their businesses and the communities that depend upon them (including tourism) along the canal by permanently diminishing access to and destroying name branding of the Erie Canal. It is the proposed beginning to an unfortunate end. Before it is too late, I urge you to help share this information.
NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT and express your opinion by CONTACTING YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVES TODAY using the links below:
NYS Assembly representative – https://nyassembly.gov/mem/search/
NYS Senate representative – https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator
Thank you so much for your consideration and dedication at this critical time
Canal New York