New icebreaking efforts underway along the Erie Canal

National News

An iceberg floats past Bylot Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago on July 24, 2017 . (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new icebreaking pilot program for the Erie Canal and Mohawk River. The program aims to improve resiliency and by testing new ice jam prevention methods as part of the “Reimagine the Canals” initiative in Schenectady County.

“As the former mayor of Schenectady,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton, “I know firsthand that flooding from ice jams is serious, and we believe our efforts this year will begin to help mitigate the ice and high-water challenges that Capital Region communities face each winter. We are dedicated to testing new innovations to ensure that our canal-side neighbors will be less affected by winter ice and spring flooding.”

Initial efforts to address the complex causes of ice jams will include testing the ice-breaking ability of tugboats and using an amphibious dredger to limit sheet ice as it forms.

The tugboats—deployed upstream of the Vischer Ferry Dam through and past the Rexford Gorge—are meant to address flooding in Schenectady County. They are under contract by New York State Marine Highway Transportation Company of Troy and will be moored at Lock E-7 in Niskayuna.

The Canal Corporation’s new Watermaster Amphibious Multipurpose Dredger may become an effective weapon against ice floes. They’ll use it all-year for canal maintenance, but will also test it for ice-breaking in the Lock E-7 harbor throughout the winter.

“We continue to take bold steps to transform our waterways and improve the resiliency of communities along the Erie Canal,” Cuomo said. “Ice jams have long been a problem throughout the state, especially along the Mohawk River. In line with our goal of bringing the Erie Canal into the 21st century, we’re piloting several innovative approaches that will reduce the threat of flooding and bring peace of mind to residents, and economic stability in the region.”

In his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed a $300 million plan to mitigate flooding, expand irrigation, enhance recreational fishing, restore wetlands, and boost tourism along the canalway system. The ice-breaking initiative is part of a plan that may include changing the size of the Mohawk River channel in certain areas, retrofitting Vischer Ferry Dam at Lock E-7 with gates to raise and lower water levels, and installing cameras and sensors.

The program was developed by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation, Clarkson University, Union College, Geological Survey, National Weather Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

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