Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship is recognized as one of the primary responsibilities of the Canal Corporation. Incorporating Environmental Stewardship into all projects and activities is one of the goals of our organization. Successful implementation of this goal requires that all Corporation employees take on the role of environmental stewards.
A white egret standing on the canal bank. The water has small waves and green foliage is in the background.

Dredging Activities

Each year the Canal Corporation conducts dredging in order to maintain minimum water depths for navigation in the Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain, Erie and Oswego canals. (Dredging in the Champlain Canal is currently limited to the confluence of the Hoosic River and Hudson River). Four floating plants, staffed with permanent and seasonal employees, are located on the Canal in Waterford, Utica, Syracuse and Albion. Each floating plant has the capability to dredge by hydraulic and mechanical methods. Most dredging is conducted between May and November.

Dredging at stream mouths is avoided or limited during fish spawning season every May and June. This precaution ensures that these special areas and any fish seeking to spawn in the creeks are not adversely impacted.

In recent years, the Canal Corporation has expanded its use of "dry dredging." Dry dredging involves the use of traditional construction equipment to remove sediment during the non-navigation season when water levels are lowered. This practice largely takes place out of the water and as a result, protects the water quality and minimizes any adverse impacts on environmental habitats.

Stormwater Management

Stormwater runoff gathers a variety of pollutants, which degrade New York's lakes, rivers, wetland and other waterways. Stormwater management, especially in urban areas, is becoming a necessary step to reduce pollution in New York's waterways. A new federal regulation, commonly known as Stormwater Phase II, requires permits for stormwater discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in urbanized areas (population of 1000 per square mile or more) and for all construction activities disturbing one or more acres. To implement the law, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued two general permits, one for MS4s in urbanized areas and one for stormwater management at construction activities.

The New York State Canal Corporation (Corporation) has had coverage under the MS4 permit since March 5, 2003. Working in conjunction with our consultant engineers, the Corporation is implementing a stormwater management program (SWMP) for compliance with the federal and state Stormwater Phase II program.

In response to the 1987 Amendments to the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program. NPDES addresses sources of stormwater runoff that have the greatest potential to negatively impact water quality including small, medium and large municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) and construction activities that disturb more than one acre of land. These regulations apply to municipalities, as well as to all public entities that own and maintain a separate storm sewer system. To comply with NPDES requirements, NYSDEC issued a general permit for stormwater discharges from MS4s (GP 0-15-003) and for stormwater discharges from construction activities (GP 0-15-003).

Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)

Stormwater runoff gathers a variety of pollutants, which degrade lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waterways. As a result, stormwater management, especially in urban areas, is becoming a necessary step to reduce pollution in New York's waterways. Federal regulations require permits for stormwater discharges from Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) in urbanized areas; as such, MS4s are required to develop a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP). To comply, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a general permit (GP 0-15-003), which became effective on May 1, 2015, and will continue for two years through April 30, 2017. Under this Federal regulation, the Corporation is considered a regulated non-traditional MS4.

Stormwater Management Program

The Corporation recognizes the importance of environmental stewardship and has taken a proactive approach to pollution prevention. In support of these efforts, the Corporation developed and implemented a statewide stormwater management program, the framework of which was submitted to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in March 2003 for compliance with the State's General Permit. The Corporation's non-traditional MS4 program includes the following minimum control items:

  • Public Education and Outreach
  • Public Participation and Involvement
  • Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
  • Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
  • Post-Construction Stormwater Management
  • Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations

The Corporation continues to evaluate facilities and operations, develop standard operating procedures and best management practices for high-risk activities.

A copy of the NYSCC Stormwater Management Plan can be viewed here. Questions or comments on the Stormwater Management Plan can be emailed to

 Brian Stratton inspects Lock E9 and the raising of dams by Canals employees. The dams at Lock E9 are being raised to decrease water levels on the Mohawk River, a preventive measure against anticipated flooding from Tropical Storm Henri. To prepare for potential impacts from the storm, the New York State Canal Corporation will proactively lift its movable dams along the Erie Canal and Mohawk River, spanning from Lock E-8 (Rotterdam) to Lock E-15 (Fort Plain)
MS4 Annual Reports
As part of the Corporation’s SWMPs, annual reports are developed to summarize activities completed each year.  
A marshy scene with calm water in the background. The green and yellow foliage of the marsh make the image appear to be in the fall.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP)

A SWPPP is a plan that describes the strategies and steps that will be taken to prevent nonpoint source pollution discharging from a construction site. All capital and maintenance projects that disturb one acre of land or more require the Corporation to develop SWPPP. The SWPPP is the backbone of the construction process as it relates to erosion and sediment control, and stormwater management, both during construction and post construction. The SWPPP includes a description of all construction activity, temporary and permanent erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices, permanent stormwater management, and other pollution prevention techniques to be implemented throughout the life of the construction project. The SWPPP includes a combination of narrative plans and standard detail sheets that address the foreseeable conditions at any stage of construction. These plans are required by the New York State Department of Conservation as part of their SPDES permit to comply with NPDES.

Pollinator Gardens

In spring 2023, a pollinator garden was planted along the Erie Canal trail in front of Corbett Park in Brockport.

The garden was designed through a collaboration of Canal Corporation (NYSCC) and Cornell Master Gardener Volunteers. It is 1,500 SF with 23 species of native forbs and grasses compatible with the Canal Corporation's Earthen Embankment Integrity Program guidelines.

The garden was designed to support pollinators—the group of animals, mostly insects—that pollinate plants. Pollination is required for plants to reproduce. Pollinators have been in decline due to habitat loss and other harmful environmental conditions. Gardening with native plants can help reverse these declines by providing habitat for native pollinators."

Volunteering with the Brockport Pollinator Garden

As a volunteer at the Brockport Pollinator Garden, you can assist our community and the NYS Canal Corporation help pollinators thrive. Let's get ready to weed, prune and monitor our garden's progress.

Speak with your contact to determine which tasks you are going to do according to Instructions & Schedule for Care and Monitoring sections, below. Some will be spending a few hours or a day to accomplish tasks needed each season. Others will be monitoring the garden for "spot" maintenance.

How to Dress
  • Long pants & sleeves, closed-toe shoes, hat and gardening gloves
  • Sun protection at least SPF 30
  • Water bottle
Tools & Supplies
  • Double ground hardwood mulch, if needed
  • Rakes to spread mulch
  • Straight-edged shovels or string trimmers to create & maintain edge around plant beds
  • Garbage cans or recyclable bags to collect weeds


  • Small trowel to help dig up weed roots
  • Large shovel to divide and replant perennials
Instructions & Schedule For Care

Use as a general guide as weather conditions such as heavy rain, drought, freezes or excessive heat can shift timing for care.

Spring (April - May)

Frequency: Once
Rake or fluff mulch by hand to freshen garden's appearance each year

Add New Mulch
Frequency: As needed
To maintain about a 3" depth

Summer (June - August)

Frequency: Biweekly or As Needed
Pull small weeds by hand. Larger or deep-rooted weeds may require a trowel. Be sure to remove the entire root system to minimize regrowth

Frequency: Monthly
Create a garden edge using a straight-edged shovel or string trimmer to frame the garden

Fall (September)

Frequency: As Needed
Water new plants for their first 1-2 years

Dividing & Replanting
Frequency: As Needed
Divide plants with a shovel to expand the garden and fill in bare spots. Plants can be divided every few years

Monitoring (year round)


Monitor the overall garden performance. Check for:

  • Weed growth
  • Rabbit, deer or other pest damage. Plants repeatedly damaged by pests may need to be replaced with a different variety
  • Bare spots that can be replanted in the fall


Leave dried plant leaves, flower heads and stems to provide habitat for animals throughout the winter

  • Do not “dead head” plants in fall or “clean up” fallen leaves
  • Seed heads provide food for songbirds & spread native plants
  • Decomposing leaves add nutrients to soil
A close-up photo of a yellow and white sign that says "Pollinator Garden in Progress" with butterflies and logos of The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Canal Corporation. A man is seen in the background on his knees planting pants in the ground. More than two dozen volunteers from the Village of Brockport and Cornell Cooperative Extension worked together to plant a native pollinator garden along the Erie Canal and Empire State Trail at Corbett Park. 
Several volunteers are working together to plant numerous plants along a stretch of the canal next to the trail. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Canal Corporation teamed with more than two dozen volunteers from the Village of Brockport and Cornell Cooperative Extension to plant a native pollinator garden along the Erie Canal and Empire State Trail at Corbett Park. 
The New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation teamed with more than two dozen volunteers from the Village of Brockport and Cornell Cooperative Extension to plant a native pollinator garden along the Erie Canal and Empire State Trail at Corbett Park. This photo shows several varieties of plants and multiple plants of each variety laid out and ready to be planted in the grass along a stretch of the trail next to the canal.

Wetlands & Wildlife Habitats

In partnership with NYSDEC, we are enhancing waterflows and wildlife habitat in the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area, an important migratory stopover.

Northern Montezuma WMA Wetlands

The NYS Canal Corporation, water management steward of the Erie Canal and parts of the Seneca River, is enhancing about 184 acres of this wildlife management area. In collaboration with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and others, we're creating channels to improve water depths and reconnect the Seneca River to its floodplain. By re-grading earthen sections, controlling invasive vegetation and planting native species, the goals are to bring water flows and provide a variety of natural habitats and food for migrating birds, fish and other wildlife.

A Canadian goose is standing on a pile of wetlands including mud and sticks.
Bluff Point south showing wetlands with patches of green. Water is to the right and shrubs and trees are in the background.
Sunrise of bright orange, yellow and pink over the Marsh with Seneca River West and Bluff point in the Background.
An invasive fish named the round goby is being held in someone's hand. The fish is around four inches long, green in color with dark speckles and a dark spot on its top fin.

Invasive Species

The NYS Canal Corporation plays an important role in mitigating the spread of invasive species.