Fall, 03

From the President

By David G. Barber

In England, the west side of the country is drained by the River Severn which flows south from the Welch border to the Bristol Channel. From Stourport south to Gloucester, the river is navigable by fairly large vessels. At Gloucester however, the river becomes very twisty and subject to some of the largest tides in the world. This difficult section of river was bypassed by the construction of the Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal providing safe navigation to Sharpness, where the estuary becomes wider, deeper and straighter. The midpoint on the ship canal is Saul Junction.

Saul Junction is so named because from there the derelict Stroudwater Canal goes east for seven miles to Stroud where it makes and end on connection to the derelict Thames and Severn Canal. The T&S then courses east for twenty-nine miles over the Cotswold summit to Lechlade. Lechlade is the upper limit of navigation on the Thames from London. The two canals total 57 locks in 36 miles and include the two and a quarter mile long Sapperton Tunnel, Britain's third longest canal tunnel. In 2001 after decades of campaigning and restoration work by volunteers, British Waterways announced that they plan to spend 82 million pounds over the next ten years to restore these two waterways to navigation.

I point out all of this, because on the web site for the Cotswold Canals Trust, they report that as a result of this investment, British Waterways estimates that there will be 1.8 million added visitor days per year to the area, 8.5 million pounds per year, increased visitor spending, 500 permanent new jobs along the canal route, and 1,400 construction jobs. A recent pamphlet of the Waterways Trust ups the number of new permanent jobs to be created to 800. The British restore canals because it makes economic sense.

In New York and Pennsylvania, the Delaware and Hudson Canal once extended for 108 miles from tidewater at Eddyville, NY, to Honesdale, PA. The most intact part of the canal is from Eddyville to Port Jervis, NY. This section is 59 miles long and has 57 locks plus two Roebling suspension aqueducts and ten wood trunk aqueducts. The valleys through which this part of the canal runs lost population with the closing of the canal in 1899 and have never recovered. It is one of the poorest areas of New York State.

Just to the south of the D&H Canal is New Jersey, the most densely populated state and New York City, the financial capital of the world. The people who live in New Jersey and the city and its suburbs have many options on where to spend their leisure time and money. At present, there is no outstanding reason to spend that time and money in the valleys between Eddyville and Port Jervis despite their proximity.

But, both Kingston, NY, which is close to Eddyville, and Port Jervis are accessible by commuter train from New York City. Lock 1 at Eddyville has water on its floor and boats moored within feet of it. Using the usual canal standards, a one way cruise from Eddyville to Port Jervis would be a comfortable 5 days. The Lockmaster boats made by Mid-Lakes Navigation for use on the Erie Canal would fit in D&H Canal locks. Both ends of the sixteen-mile long summit level are still watered. Most of the locks remain intact and much of the route is in public ownership.

How many jobs and how much economic activity would be created in this poor section of New York State by the restoration of the canal from Eddyville to Port Jervis?

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