New York State’s 524-mile canal system opened for the season this week, welcoming commercial traffic and recreational boaters, Times Union reports.
The Erie Canal — traditionally a tourist magnet and resource for farm irrigation systems, hydropower and drinking water — is increasingly being used to deliver cargo. In the past, 8,000 to 12,000 tons of cargo would be handled in a typical year, but last year, the canals carried 43,022 tons. The figure is expected to top 100,000 tons this year, the highest in two decades.
The depth of the Erie Canal, which was originally four feet when it opened in 1825, has since been improved to a depth of 12 feet. It has also been widened to accommodate barge traffic.
Permit fees and canal tolls brought in about $3.4 million in revenue in 2012. The state Canal Corp. is hoping to recover about $80 million to $85 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair locks through the Mohawk Valley that were damaged by storms Irene and Lee, said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corp.’s director, in an interview with a Times Union reporter.
In addition to the Erie Canal, the state’s canal system also includes the Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals.