Dam embankment!

The Canal Authority has launched a program to clear-cut brush and trees from certain parts of the canal shoreline. The Oxbow section an important part of this project from a safety angle because of the numerous properties under the embankment.

Here are the maps of the Oxbow designated areas.  You can see all 65 maps here

In these photos, note all the houses between the canal and Jefferson Rd. They are in potential danger if this dam is breached.

The red vegetation box looks exactly like where this dam breached many years ago.

1918_widewaters_embankment_2 copy

In this photo, note that the cottages are already  around ‘the lake’ but there is no lake,  because it’s already breached, hence the huge pile of rubble circled. Noting the size of the people on the dam, I’d estimate its overall height to be about forty feet. We know that the canal is at least twenty five feet deep here, and fresh water pressure is 0.43 psi per foot = 10 psi.  That’s enough to bore a hole in an earthen dam.


Looking south now, you can see the electricity pylons and the remains of the washout rubble. I suspect this photo was taken after the breach was repaired.

Here are the objectives of The Canal Authority.

Project Overview
Canal embankments along elevated sections of the Erie Canal in Orleans and Monroe counties will be restored to their design condition by removing trees and brush at 56 locations covering about 145 acres. Their removal will restore the integrity of the embankments and improve the Canal Corporation’s ability to properly manage their condition, keeping the communities that surround the canal safe from potential flooding due to structural failures.

Tree Growth on and Adjacent to Dams

NYDEC Report on Trees on Dams and Embankments.

Canal Authority Deputy Director John Callaghan says ” It’s all about safety!”  “Inspectors can’t see if there are any problems such as leaking or rotting from the canal.”   Read more here.
 I wondered why the canal had not been drained this year, and guess that it’s to do with this project. Perhaps they can spot leaks as they remove vegetation?
Check out this disaster and note the similarities!
Torrential rain soaked the Welsh Slag Heaps of Aberfan back in 1966. It became so wet, the entire mound slipped and buried 114 children at a school.
Here’s the Aberfan rubble, it looks very similar to the rubble that the dam-embankments of the Erie Canal are made of. If the dam wall gets too soggy this could happen in Fairport, and with the amount of water in the canal, the devastation could be ten times worse than Aberfan!
We even have a school right in the path of where the last canal breach occurred.




Author: Mike Caswell

I live in Fairport, and my home is at The Oxbow section of The Erie Canal. I fish, have a pontoon boat and like messing in boats. (see www.mud-skipper.com). I'm retired and enjoy every day living here with my wife Carol and our two dogs.

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