Paul Buckowski / Times Union

NY - Flooding's Foe? Icebreakers Are Ready to Go in Erie Canal

Tugboats being tested to prevent ice jams near Niskayuna

NISKAYUNA — Just in time for the onset of cold weather, the state Canal Corporation has started a pilot program to use tugboats and a dredging device to help keep part of the Erie Canal ice-free in order to prevent ice dams, or the buildup of melting ice that clogs the flow of water and can lead to springtime flooding.

The first phase this winter will involve testing how tugboats can limit the formation of sheet ice in the Canal and Mohawk River upstream of the Vischer Ferry Dam past Rexford Gorge.

The tugboats are under contract by New York State Marine Highway Transportation Company of Troy. They will be moored at Lock E-7 in Niskayuna.

Additionally, the Canal Corporation has an amphibious dredging machine. This vessel will be used year-round for canal maintenance and but will also be tested for ice-breaking operations at Lock E-7 this winter.

The $65 million project to fight ice jams is part of a larger $300 million, five-year program to “re-imagine the Erie Canal” that Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out in last January’s State of the State address.

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