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Time to Cry Foul Over Erie Canal Changes

Proposed changes could be detrimental to the historic waterway frequented by Loopers for years to come.
Erie Canal's Palmra, New York, locks

Erie Canal's Palmra, New York, locks

Reporting by Norm Schultz

BoatUS is sounding the alarm on proposed management changes to the New York State Canal System that, if passed, could trigger negative consequences on the historic waterway for years to come—and not just in New York. Urging immediate engagement by their members are the Michigan Boating Industries Association, the Boating Associations of Ohio, the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association and other Great Lakes stakeholders.

An act has been introduced in the waning days of New York’s annual budget process that allows no opportunity for public input. BoatUS is urging its 44,000 New York members—plus all canal community members and the boaters in many states that use the Erie Canal and others in the canal system for transit in and out of the Great Lakes and Canada—to make their voices heard by insisting that legislators immediately remove Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendment, TED Bill Part VV, distractingly called the New York State Canal System Revitalization Act.

BoatUS discovered that the proposed act essentially details the canal as a failure, calling it “antiquated and deteriorating” as a result of the lack of commercial shipping activity. Ironically, at the same time it acknowledges that, the “state has not exploited the full potential of the canal system.”

If passed, the act would forever change the operating structure, which would leave management of the canal system even less transparent than it currently is, remove state accountability and forever hinder the economic viability of the canal with weak funding sources.

“For our marine industry, the negative impact will hit many marine dealers and boat owners,” says Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Here’s just one example: Jefferson Beach Yachts Sales in St. Clair Shores receives many of their large Viking, Sunseeker, Princess and Absolute inventory via the Erie Canal. Plus, many of their customers travel north and south via the canal. It will negatively impact dealers and owners on all five Great Lakes.”

The historic Erie Canal effectively connects the Great Lakes at Buffalo to New York City via the Hudson River at Albany. The canal is 363 miles long and was the first canal in the United States to connect western waterways with the Atlantic. Connecting canals also provided access to the popular Finger Lakes region and Lake Ontario at Rochester.

BoatUS vice president of public affairs Scott Croft is even more direct. “We believe the act’s last-minute introduction during the end of the budget process is an indication of the administration’s strategy to minimize debate and control outcomes,” he says. “To discuss change of this magnitude, we’re asking Gov. Cuomo to engage in an open, transparent process to ensure the future of this historic waterway, not only for recreational boaters in New York and beyond, but for the communities that benefit from it all along its length.”

BoatUS has an online option for New York-registered boat owners to send messages opposing the bill to their legislators.

In addition, there is an option for those outside of New York to post on Twitter.

Norm Schultz reporting courtesy of our sister publication Soundings Trade Only