The public comment period on the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) for the state Canal Corp.’s Earthen Embankment Integrity Program will be extended to October 15, 2021, the organization said Monday.
“The Canal Corp. is committed to a public engagement process that provides meaningful ways for members of the community to contribute to the final design of the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program,” Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton said in a statement. “To that end, the Canal Corp. is extending the comment period to ensure that the public has the opportunity to fully understand and weigh in on the program, especially with regard to plans for public relations and community outreach for maintenance projects, which will be handled on a project-by-project basis when the program is implemented.”
The Canal Corp. is developing a guidebook to establish policies and procedures for the management of some 125 miles of earthen embankments along the entire 524-mile state canal system, which includes the Erie Canal that runs through parts of the Greater Rochester region. The new guidebook will include protocols for safety, inspection, maintenance, community outreach and related environmental concerns, including a procedural approach as to where vegetation will be removed from the engineered embankments in the future.
“I am grateful that the Canal Corp. is taking community feedback seriously and extending the public comment period to allow constituents like mine ample opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. The Erie Canal and Canalway Trail run through the heart of my district and its true impact on our community cannot be quantified,” said Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford (D-Perinton). “I look forward to continuing open discussions with the Canal Corp. regarding its Earthen Embankment Integrity Program while we work collaboratively to preserve the character of our communities.”
In 2018, the Canal Corp. planned to remove trees along the Erie Canal here, but public outcry — including lawsuits from the towns of Pittsford, Brighton and Perinton — delayed that process, though some vegetation had been removed on the west side of town. At issue is whether trees stabilize the ground alongside the canal. Proponents of the tree removal plan say tree roots erode the soil, while some residents and opponents say that in addition to the unsightliness of the removed tree line, roots stabilize the soil.
Members of the public can comment on the plan by emailing [email protected]. In addition, community members and stakeholders can learn more about the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program by attending one of two information sessions at the town of Perinton Community Center on Sept. 20 and 21. Virtual sessions will be held on Sept. 30 and participants can register by emailing [email protected].
“I am relieved that the Canal Corp. made the decision to hold additional information sessions and extend the public comment period on its Embankment Integrity Program. Canal Corp. leadership is listening to the voices of our community and my personal requests to rethink its strategy,” said Sen. Samra Brouk (D-Rochester). “I look forward to hearing more details about Canal Corp.’s maintenance plans and creating a better framework for community input on specific projects.”
The Canal Corp. plans to publish overview materials on its website to compliment the DGEIS and to specifically break down the program elements related to future public relations and community outreach when projects are identified.