I had the honor and pleasure of accompanying Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton and his crew today as they completed the annual Canal Inspection on “our” section of the Eastern Division of the Erie Canal. It turns out that this is the first time in ten years that the Legislatively required inspection has been completed by water. I boarded the Tug Grand Erie at lock 7 in Niskayuna and passed through the lock on to AlCathy’s (the anchorage at the end of Flight Lock Road in Waterford). It was a fantastic experience which I recommend to anyone even remotely interested in Erie Canal stories, history, or current day operations. What did I learn? Plenty:
I talked to the Division Engineer about the “critical path” of urgent work needed to open the Canal to navigation before winter. There are a number of large vessels and commercial shipments in Oneida Lake and the central N Y area that need to get to the east coast. Dredging in the channel between the historic Niskayuna railroad station and the Vischer Ferry Preserve is one of these critical needs. Our vessel was drafting 4.5 feet and momentarily hit bottom in this section (affectionately known as the “duck pond” to the Canal Corporation). A 14 foot depth is needed. This is historically the area where sediment is deposited as the down stream currents quiet and settle out particulates in the “water column”. And we all know all the sediment and debris that came down in the tropical storm flooding.
I also shared lunch alongside the Canal Corporation’s groundwater hydrologist who very graphically briefed me on the concern for the threat of failure of the earthen portion of the Lock 7 dam. Remedial construction that I had seen previously suddenly became more obvious and reassuring.
Southern Saratoga County Chamber CEO Peter Bardunias and I spent some time “conspiring” on a number of things from geo-tourism and heritage tourism; a community service project around Lock 19 in the Vischer Ferry Nature and Historic Preserve; to a possible community clean up day along the Mohawk River in conjunction with “Canal Clean Sweep” next April 21.
To avoid making a long story longer (with more engineering) let me offer the following. The target that the Canal Corporation and other state agencies is feverishly working on is to have navigation open by Thanksgiving.
All of you that find traffic on the waterway interesting will want to keep your eye to the Mohawk River the weekend after Thanksgiving through the first week of December. Some unique large (for the Canal) vessels and interesting commercial traffic will be passing through the Mohawk Towpath Byway corridor.