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Earthen Embankment Integrity Program Overview

For a total of approximately 125 miles of its 524-mile length, the Canal runs through built earthen embankments. These embankment structures exist at many non-continuous points along the Canal, but the concentration of high hazard large embankments is located between Lockport in Niagara County and Lyons in Wayne County (shorter stretches of high hazard embankments are found elsewhere). “High hazard” means that failure would likely result in, among other things, loss of life or widespread economic impact.

The New York State Canal Corporation is developing an embankment inspection and maintenance guidebook that will set forth protocols for safety, inspection, maintenance, community outreach and related environmental concerns, including a procedural approach as to where trees will be removed. While there will be a presumption that all trees and other unsuitable vegetation will be cleared to protect people and property, the guidebook will also recognize opportunities to consider alternatives to tree clearing in areas used for recreation, parks, municipal, residential and commercial areas.

The New York State Canal Corporation has deemed preparation of this guidebook to be a “Type 1” action under SEQRA, subject to a full, and public, environmental review including a programmatic generic environmental impact statement. This SEQRA process is estimated to take 8 months. Absent an emergency, no clearing work would begin until the SEQRA process is completed. The first step in the SEQRA process is the issuance of a “lead agency” letter, which has been distributed to interested parties.