Lt. Governor visits Amsterdam, outlines canal improvement plan

New York State Lt. Governor Robert Duffy visited Amsterdam at Lock 11 on Monday afternoon. Duffy along with Congressman Paul Tonko, Canal Corporation president Brian Stratton and Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane viewed the progress being made at the lock that was one of several in the Mohawk Valley that was damaged in 2012 by Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. Duffy, who has announced he is retiring, took time to visit and speak with people on the efforts to improve the canal lock system.

“I don’t think anyone has logged more miles throughout the state than Robert Duffy,” Mayor Thane said in her introduction of the Lt. Governor. “We are fortunate to have him as second in command in the Empire State.”

Duffy outlined three elements of a $40 million dollar “E11 Project” that will improve the lock along with seven others effected by the damaging storms. The first part will cost $28 million to install a moveable dam which will allow the lock to be raised easier.

“Locks seven through fourteen will be repaired through the moveable dam project,” Duffy said.

According to Stratton, the moveable dams will be in place at locks from Scotia to Fort Plain by the end of the year 2016.

The second part of the project will be a statewide flood warning project. At a cost of $8.5 million that phase will update the warning system to alert residents in flood prone areas.

“The canal system was tested by the strongest weather that mother nature throws at us,” said Stratton during his time at the podium. “The Canal Corp. is building it back better.”

According to Stratton, the new warning system will be technologically superior than anything before.

The third project Duffy noted in his address was the restoration of Guy Park Manor, former home of the Walter Elwood Museum and current home of Canal Corps offices.

“The building is stabilized,” said Stratton as he addressed reporters. “Bids will go out for full reconstruction by the end of 2015. We’re hoping for completion by the end of 2016.”

Congressman Paul Tonko stepped to the podium following Duffy and commended the efforts of those involved in the projects. Work was in progress as the dignitaries spoke. They noted that they are proud to be part of the New York Rising initiative.

“This is a comeback scenario and these are comeback heroes,” said Tonko. “It is important to retrofit the canal system so it can better respond to flood situations. This is an all-inclusive agenda to better strengthen our waterways so that we can utilize them in the comeback scenario.”

Tonko noted the heritage and history of the Mohawk Valley and Erie Canal. The Erie Canal has been in operation since it was built in 1825. The Mohawk River was canalized in the early 20th century. He said that the system is considered an engineering marvel and many communities grew along the canal.

“What better way to market our communities,” said Tonko. “This is a great investment. It shows thee worthiness of the river and Erie Canal history.”

Duffy took a few questions from reporters after his address and said upon retirement that he is looking forward to spending time with his family in the Rochester/ Finger Lakes region. When asked what career was next he hinted at the possibility of something in the education field. He stated that whatever he decided on that it would be something he would enjoy doing.

(Photos by Scott Mulford)

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.