Summer '04

A letter from the President

By David G. Barber

At the Directors' Meeting in June, I reported on the progress being made on many of our closed canals. I think it important that we be aware of progress as well as possibilities. So, I'm going to share that report with you at this time with some added items.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike has a project to rebuild its Delaware River bridge and construct a second bridge alongside it. The existing and new bridges span both Rte. US 13 and the route of the Delaware Canal, which crosses diagonally through the crossing of the two highways. A meeting of interested parties was held in April and many ideas were exchanged. When the first bridge was built in the 1950's, the canal was filled in under the bridge up to towpath level, but the bridge and its piers are not actually on or in the canal. The turnpike has been asked to remove this fill and add no more. While the bridge construction is ten years in the future, there was interest at the meeting to remove the fill at an earlier date.

Further north, the Levittown shopping center was built in the 1950's with its parking lot destroying a piece of the canal. The shopping center has now been demolished and the site is being redeveloped. But, the project is going slowly with the developer being fined for not removing demolition debris promptly. There is much interest in reestablishing the canal through the site. The canal route is still owned by the state.

In all, there are 26 impediments in the southern ten miles of the Delaware Canal. One of these, the fill and culvert at the US Rte.1 Bridge in Morrisville, will be removed starting in July.

Further north at New Hope, the canal from Lock 11, the upper of the four New Hope locks, to the aqueduct in New Hope was dredged this past spring. Even more interesting, Lock 11 is being rebuilt to operating condition and will be available for locking through canal boats as a daily demonstration.

Last fall on the Delaware & Hudson Canal at Cuddebackville, NY, the Nature Conservancy was involved in the removal of a dam on the Neversink River. The Conservancy claimed that the dam had blocked the river since the original construction of the canal. However, at the site, the river has two channels. The plan was to remove the concrete dam in the right-hand channel. This dam had been built in the early twentieth century by a power company. The canal company dam only blocked the left hand channel.

The project includes building a "temporary" roadway from Lock 51 to access the site. But, the roadway will remain for park access purposes after the demolition work. This is an interesting definition of "temporary".

The power company dam in the left-hand channel that replaced the earlier canal company's, wood crib dam will remain despite its undermined condition. Failure of this dam will send habitat damaging silt downstream.

This project is an interesting example of how important it is for us to keep on top of these things. The conservancy folks put out much inaccurate historical information and are taking credit for a project that only partly addresses the needs of the site. It is also an example of the effort of some groups to remove historic canal dams as a "righteous cause".

There is a long range project to open the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath from Lake Erie at Cleveland to New Philadelphia. Many segments are already open. Last fall, a long section of the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath trail was opened between Bolivar and Navarre. At Harvard Ave. in Cleveland, a trail is being planned on the west side of the river to continue the "towpath trail" north, it will not follow the actual towpath which is on the east side of the river due to a railroad yard and a steel mill occupying the original route. Planning is also underway to open other segments. There was a very interesting talk at the Canal Society of Ohio spring field trip about plans for the canal at Bolivar including a bridge at the site of the Tuscarawas Aqueduct west of town and another across Interstate 77 to the south.

I had a visit from a commercial developer, who is involved in building outlet malls in the Netherlands and England. He and his sponsors are interested in doing the same thing in the US with a tie in to canals and canal restoration. This idea is in the very preliminary stages.

The State of Wisconsin is working on a plan to restore navigation on the Lower Fox River between Green Bay and Lake Winnebago. The idea is to restore all of the locks along the river except one, which will be replaced by a boat lift like that at Big Chute in Ontario. The boat lift is needed to stop the upward migration of invasive marine life.

Indiana has a problem with the silting of the canal & dam at Metamora. The river also has silt caused by the carelessness of development companies. Letting topsoil leave your property is a legal no-no. Government units can be pressured to ignore it but we have the right to stand up and complain. The public needs to insist that landowners develop settling ponds on their property and stop allowing silt to enter the waterways. If we don't stand up for what is right, who will? Public complaints to the state environmental people must be investigated.

New Jersey has been working to improve the towpath along the Delaware and Raritan Canal and its feeder. They have improved several problem areas along the way and plan to bring the trail along the main canal into Trenton. This past spring, the state completed a new pedestrian bridge over US Route 1 northeast of Trenton to link two sections together across the busy, four lane highway.

South of Trenton along the Delaware River, the last two miles of the canal to Lock 1 at Bordentown, which are tidal, silted in, and a hard bushwack on the towpath, can now be easily viewed while riding the new light rail "River Line".

Finally, David Edwards-May of Euromapping is developing a new North American Canals map showing both historic and operating canals and river navigations. Copies can be ordered at the Inland Waterways International web site.

These successes and questions are now listed on our web site under "progress". I would welcome learning of more to include.

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