SENECA FALLS — There haven’t been falls in this Seneca County community in more than 100 years, back when the Seneca River ran through town before the state built the canal and locks.
Whitewater rapids may not be too far away if Gov. Andrew Cuomo has his way.
The governor unveiled 30 proposals ahead of his 2020 State of the State address, which he delivered in Albany Wednesday.
Proposal No. 29, unveiled Jan. 6, calls for investing $300 million to “re-imagine” the iconic, mile-long Erie Canal by increasing recreational activities to boost tourism, mitigate flooding, enhance irrigation and recreational fishing, and restore wetlands. The first phase of funding would start in this year’s budget.
The monetary breakdown:
• A $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the canal.
• A $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding issues in the Schenectady area.
• The remaining $135 million allocated to research recommended by the Re-imaging Task Force, as well as to solutions related to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.
Under new economic development funding for canal communities, the governor’s plan calls for establishing a new whitewater destination at the north end of Cayuga Lake in Seneca Falls and Tyre. The plan calls for using an existing water-control infrastructure to construct an active, water-sports rapids course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in Tyre.
Another aspect of the plan is to divert canal water to restore and re-nourish wetlands in Central New York that were compromised a century ago by the canal’s construction. This will allow areas close to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a migratory stopover for more than a million birds each year, to be significantly enhanced to further attract naturalists, locals and visitors.
Cuomo is recommending the New York Power Authority Board of Directors, which now oversees the state Canal Corp. as a subsidiary, approve the $300 million investment over the next five years when it meets later this month. The re-imaging idea came from a Re-imaging the Canal Task Force.
“When the Erie Canal was created in the early 19th century, it set the state and nation on a path to prosperity and this year we will re-purpose the canal to further our state’s 21st century needs,” Cuomo said in a press release. “This bold and visionary plan to transfer this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail, grow tourism all across upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s canal communities and ensure the economic stability of the waterway in the future.”
“As an upstate New Yorker who lives on the Erie Canal and is a frequent visitor to canal communities, I know this plan to re-imagine the canal can unlock even more potential to make it a major tourism magnet,” added Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.