Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ALBION — The annual inspection of Erie Canal infrastructure continued with a tour of the section between Albion and western Monroe County Wednesday, bringing New York State Canal Corporation officials back to an area they’ve frequented this summer.
The focus of the Canal Corporation has been trained on Orleans County for most of this month due to the damage along and the ensuing drainage of the canal between Middleport and Holley.
While the canal is back to full capacity throughout the region, work was ongoing at trouble spots revealed following a sinkhole in an Albion roadway as the M/V Grand Erie made its way east.
“This is pertinent with what happened in Albion,” Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton said. “We’re making sure there are no issues where we’re working.”
The tug boat, a converted Army Corps of Engineers vessel that is the largest of the five-dozen owned by the state, is typically used to pull dredging equipment along the waterway. It’s cargo was quite different Wednesday — as the top brass from the Canal Corporation rode along, inventorying the status of lift bridges, canal embankments and residential docks.
“We don’t get to go on the water too often,” Canal Corporation Director of Maintenance and Operations Catherine Sheridan said.
The agency’s officials and engineers stopped at the Hulberton Road lift bridge for an operational review of the mechanical and electric infrastructure as well as the safety and cleanliness of the bridge.
“We have very unique structures on the canal,” Stratton said of the iconic bridges that provide canal crossings throughout western New York. “It’s to our benefit to have them operating and looking at their best.”
Another closely watched canal piece has been the nearly 100 culverts between Buffalo and the Monroe-Wayne County line. The Albion sinkhole formed where maintenance was being done to a century-old culvert.
Sheridan said that culvert was the last in a group being fixed up as part of a capital project. Crews from C.P. Ward installed water lines at the repair site Wednesday, with paving and guard rail installations expected to be completed within two weeks.
As the inspection passed through Fancher, additional work was being done to shore up embankments that have been part of the canal since before improvements were made more than 100 years ago to expand the waterway. Cranes pulled stones up to pile alongside those hand-placed in the 19th century.
The inspections, which began last week with a tour that began in Buffalo and ended in Medina, will continue in two- and three-day segments over the next two months.
The review will end on Oct. 26, the anniversary of DeWitt Clinton’s 1825 canal-way departure marking the opening of the canal.