Nicole Antonucci/Recorder staff Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy announces a project to strengthen lock 11 on the Erie Canal during a press conference Monday in Amsterdam. He was joined by Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane. Lock reconstruction continues in the background.
By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
A $40 million construction project is under way at Lock E-11 on the Erie Canal to improve mitigation and resiliency measures in protecting surrounding communities against future storms.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy appeared at the lock Monday to speak about the project to repair, restore and rehabilitate the infrastructure at the Lock E-11 property following several years of extreme weather.
"In 2011 we were hit with major storms which caused $84 million in damage along the canal. The communities around the canal have been devastated," Duffy said. "We are here to talk about the progress we are making."
Duffy was joined by Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, U.S Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, and Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton.
"It is our time to be comeback heroes and this will assist in that regard," Tonko said. "This is an all-inclusive agenda that allows us not only to be better stewards of this waterfront and the waterways but to utilize them to the max in our comeback scenario."
Stratton provided details about the project, which has three phases: modifying the capabilities of the lock's movable dam, implementing a state-of-the-art flood warning system, and restoring the historic Guy Park Manor and its surrounding grounds.
According to Stratton, the movable dams are being strengthened with new steel and other components which will allow them to be raised more easily and dependably during extreme weather. This will lower 100-year peak water levels and help prevent the backup of debris at the dams.
The Canal Corp. also instituted new operating procedures to be used in conjunction with the strengthened infrastructure when extreme weather is forecast.
The same improvements are being made at the other seven movable dams at every lock between Scotia and Fort Plain. The work at Lock E-13 in Yosts was recently completed.
"For the past several years the canal system has been tested by some of the strongest weather by mother nature," Stratton said. "We are ensuring that New York's canal system remains an active part of our state's critical infrastructure."
Stratton said the new procedures and infrastructure worked as designed in the face of extreme weather at several other locks last June. No communities upstream or downstream of those dams received flood damage from the canal during those storms.
The second part of the project includes a state-of-the-art flood warning system, which will improve the forecasting frequency, accuracy, modeling and mapping of any potential flooding throughout critical watershed regions in upstate New York.
"This $8.5 million system will be technologically superior to any flood warning system the state has ever utilized," Stratton said.
It will cover 13,000 square miles in all, covering the 27 upstate counties within the Mohawk and Upper Hudson Valleys, providing the public and emergency services personnel more detailed information of impending flooding. Residents and businesses will be able to go online at any time to see what areas could be affected by flooding, Stratton said.
Both the movable dam upgrades and the new flood warning system have been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, meaning that 75 percent of the cost for each project will be reimbursed by the federal government.
Also part of this project is the full restoration of Guy Park Manor and adjoining grounds. The historical building, severely damaged during tropical storms Irene and Lee, is being raised for flood mitigation. The stone facing is being restored and plans call for a new HVAC system to be installed, and interior surfaces to be restored and used for office space.
These projects are just a few of many that have been done to improve the waterfront, including the Riverlink Park, the Bridge Street rehabilitation and the Mohawk Valley Gateway overlook and pedestrian bridge that is under construction, Thane said.
"We are extraordinarily proud of our waterfront in the town and the progress we have made in bringing back our city," Thane said. "By activity we are building back better and stronger."
Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, who stood in the audience, said he was happy to see federal and state governments investing in the canal infrastructure.
"We know we have issues with flooding and we need to do what we can to protect folks along the waterway," he said. "It's exciting to see action."