Officials expect the New York State Barge Canal, which includes a stretch of the Mohawk River in Montgomery County, to open on time May 1 despite the extensive damage inflicted in late August by flood waters after tropical storms Irene and Lee.
That assessment came from Brian U. Stratton, director of the state Canal Corp., who spoke Thursday with The Leader-Herald editorial board.
"We will be absolutely ready to open for the 187th navigation season on May 1," Stratton said. "It's weather-contingent, but we are physically able to meet that date."
New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton, left, speaks to the editorial board at The Leader-Herald in Gloversville on Thursday. John Joyce, director of special projects for the Canal Corp., is at right.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The May 1 date is used for planning purposes, according to Canal Corp. spokesman R.W. Groneman. The actual opening date depends on weather conditions. In 2011, the canal system opened two weeks late because of heavy rainfall and higher- than-normal snowfall.
"Our infrastructure was modeled after the Czech Republic in the 1800s," Stratton said. "It's a 100-year-old infrastructure that still works phenomenally well."
Stratton said enough repairs have been made to the canal system for "basic operation," but a lot more work remains to be done. Damage to the canal system from the one-two punch of tropical storms Irene and Lee extended from Lock 7 in Niskayuna to Lock 12 in Tribes Hill. Three lockhouses and two power houses were swept away by the floods, he said.
Lock 10 in Cranesville, east of the city of Amsterdam, suffered what Groneman described as a "major breach." Gravel and woody debris were deposited outside the lock gates during the flood, and the gates could not operate properly. The debris and gravel were removed by an excavator, Groneman said. The gravel was taken back to where it came from and the debris was disposed of, he said. Tioga Construction Co. of Herkimer repaired the breach by depositing 85,000 tons of stone fill on the site.
At Lock 11, near Guy Park Manor on West Main Street in the city of Amsterdam, a section of the dam was twisted, and the flood waters surged in a new direction. Stratton visited the site in September to assess the damage at Guy Park Manor and at Russo's Bar and Grill, directly across the street from the manor. Workers spent a lot of time moving uprights - the metal structures that hold the plates forming the dams used to control the flow of water at the locks. The uprights broke away from the concrete "shoes" that held them in place, he said.
The Main Street bridge at Lock 12 connecting Tribes Hill and Fort Hunter was closed for several weeks after tropical storm Irene hit on Aug. 28. The bridge passed an inspection by the state Department of Transportation three weeks later, but Canal Corp. officials asked that the bridge remain closed for a few more days until their damaged "mule" - the huge, moveable unit used to raise and lower dam gates at each lock - could be safely moved off-site.
Steven Sweeney, Albany division canal engineer, said work that remains to be done at Lock 10 includes structural steel work on the dam, site work and repairs to the grounds. At Lock 11, he said, work continues on the dam and the grounds, in addition to construction of a new lock house.
Guy Park Manor, which was heavily damaged by flooding along the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, is owned by the Canal Corp. Stratton said the Canal Corp. is repairing the building. The state, he said, is spending $600,000 to stabilize the building. He said the Canal Corp. could have an office "presence" at Guy Park Manor after it's restored.
Canal officials say efforts continue to remove debris left by the flooding along the river.
Sweeney said the Canal Corp. has no plans to increase rates for usage of the canal.
The canal was closed for the season Nov. 15 but was temporarily reopened a few days later for two weeks to allow boaters whose crafts were stranded by the floods to reach their destinations.
John R. Becker covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org