ALBANY — When it comes to the New York State Canal System, the theme for the 2020 navigation season might be “Better late than not at all.”
The Canal Corporation has announced that a good portion, but not all, of the 524-mile system will be open for navigation by July 4, far later than the originally planned opening of May 15. However, lock projects in Wayne and Seneca counties and others will hold up canal travel beyond the July 4 date in some portions of the canal system.
“By Aug. 10, all canals will be fully functional end to end,” said Shane Mahar, a spokesman for the Canal Corporation.
In April, the agency announced that the canal opening would be delayed because a number of off-season maintenance projects were halted due to the work stoppage caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Those projects are resuming under the state’s reopening plan.
While many public transportation projects continued under the New York State on Pause shutdown, the canal work was stopped because it is largely a recreational waterway, according to the Canal Corporation.
Among the projects that were halted include Lock 26 on the Erie Canal in Clyde, where a full “pump-out” maintenance project was underway. A pump-out is where water is drained from a lock chamber and a host of maintenance work is performed. Mahar expects that work to be done by July 13.
In the meantime, Mahar said, “there will be water on each side of the lock.”
At Cayuga-Seneca Locks 2 and 3 in Seneca Falls, a complete rewiring of the lock maintenance system was underway. That work is now expected to completed by Aug. 3, said Mahar.
The lock closings there means boat travel between Cayuga and Seneca lakes is cut off.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Mahar, emphasizing that these are projected openings and that the hope is that the lock work might be finished sooner.
“As they come online, we will be making announcements,” he said.
Those announcements regarding specific lock or regional openings will be communicated through the Canal Corporation’s Notice to Mariners notification program available at www.canals.ny.gov.
Here are the tentative openings as of Tuesday:
Capital Region: Locks targeted for opening by July 4; Erie Canal from Lock E-2 in Waterford to Lock E-9 in Rotterdam, except for Locks E-7 (Niskayuna), E-8 (Scotia) and E-9 (Rotterdam). These locks are forecast to open between July 20 and August 10; Champlain Canal from Lock C-1 in Waterford to Lock C-12 in Whitehall, except for Lock C-12 (Whitehall), which is forecast to open on Aug. 10.
Mohawk Valley Region: Locks opening in phases, targeted for between July 4 and Aug. 10; Erie Canal Lock E-10 in Cranesville through Sylvan Beach at Oneida Lake.
Central New York Region: Locks targeted for opening by July 4; Erie Canal from Oneida Lake to Lock E-25 in May’s Point; Oswego Canal, except Lock O-7 in Oswego, which is forecast to open on Aug. 10.
Finger Lakes Region: Locks targeted for opening by July 4; Erie Canal from Lock E-25 in May’s Point to Locks E-34/35 in Lockport, except Lock E-26 in Clyde, which is forecast to open on July 13; Cayuga-Seneca Canal, except Locks CS-2/3 in Seneca Falls, which are forecast to open on Aug. 3.
Western New York Region: Locks targeted for opening by July 4; Erie Canal Locks E-34/35 in Lockport through Tonawanda.
The Canal Corporation said most boaters, paddlers and anglers can access sections of the canal system for recreational use today, even with the ongoing maintenance work. However, some sections of the canal system will have reduced water levels until the projects are completed. In addition, canal navigation aids are not currently in place, but will be installed in the waterways as the region opens.
The Canal Corporation said users of the system and adjacent Empire State Trail are encouraged to practice social distancing while using boat launches, trails and other public amenities.