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The Times
  • Canal reopens; Heavy rains prompted closure at several locks

  • Joe Hamilton was on his way east on the Erie Canal to Baltimore when he had to turn his boat around.

    “We expected to be in Baltimore for the Fourth of July,” the Florida resident said outside his boat at the Ilion Marina last week. “We’re kind of stuck here until (state Canal Corp. crews) decide to do what they’re doing.”


     

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  • Joe Hamilton was on his way east on the Erie Canal to Baltimore when he had to turn his boat around.
    “We expected to be in Baltimore for the Fourth of July,” the Florida resident said outside his boat at the Ilion Marina last week. “We’re kind of stuck here until (state Canal Corp. crews) decide to do what they’re doing.”
    The canal had been closed since late last month at locks 11 in Amsterdam through 17 in Little Falls due to the heavy rains the area experienced over the last several weeks.
    Crews have been working on the locks — doing repairs in places such as Amsterdam and Fort Plain and cleaning debris in Herkimer — and reopened the closed section Wednesday. The Canal Corporation advised mariners that while the canal has reopened, caution should be used during navigation as repair work, debris cleanup, the re-stationing of buoys continues.
    For those who are traveling the canal, the flooding has dampened things.
    Hamilton and his family have tried to make the best of their situation while anchored in Ilion. “Luckily, everyone here has been so nice and helpful,” he said of the community. “We’ve been working on the boat, tackling projects while we’re here.”
    There have been several boats stuck in areas along the canal since the rains hit, canal officials said, but numbers for commercial traffic still will exceed 100,000 tons this season — traffic not seen since 1993.
    Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton has said he anticipated almost 150,000 tons of grain and farm products to be shipped throughout the canal season. The Erie Canal has seen an increase in commercial tonnage in the last few years. About 45,000 tons last year and 10,000 tons in 2011, Stratton said.
    Ilion Marina dock master Don Sterling said boat traffic has been slow since the canal is partially closed. “Overall, we’re holding our own because we’ve had some RVs in here,” he said. “The weather affects everything. You don’t sell fuel, you don’t sell ice and you don’t have laundry.”
    Capt. Jerry Gertz, owner of Erie Canal Cruises in Herkimer, said the locks near his business remained open and applauded the Canal Corp.’s job managing the water.
    “The worst before this would have been 2006,” he said. “We were out of business for more than two weeks because they couldn’t dispel the water. Even though it was higher water (this time), this water disappeared a lot faster.”
    Canal spokesman William Sweitzer said in an email each weather event is different, so it’s hard to compare one to another.
    “The safety of our boaters and property owners along the canal system is our highest priority,” he said. “We have developed a series of protocols, which are based off forecast data provided by the National Weather Service, to manage the level of water in the canal during significant weather events.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Still, Gertz said many local residents thought his business was closed so “business is down significantly.”
    Individual ticketed passengers are down about 20 percent from last June, Gertz said. Thankfully group numbers are up about 35 percent from last year, he added.
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