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State cuts lead to restricted travel on canal

Baldwinsville's Lock 24 along the Seneca River.

Baldwinsville's Lock 24 along the Seneca River.

— The New York State Canal System officially opened Wednesday. However, due to state budget cuts, boaters will experience restricted hours at most locks along the 500-plus mile waterway.

Dozens of New York State Canal Corporation employees will be laid off, which will result in a reduction of operational hours at most locks. Under normal conditions, each lock is staffed with a lock chief and lock operator; during the summer, a seasonal lock operator is brought on to help with extended hours and maintenance .The Central New York area has lost 10 lock operators, alone.

“Many of these operators are second and third generation canalers,” said Mark Kotzin, spokesperson for CSEA Local 1000 AFSCME AFL-CIO.

While the locks will operate on a standard spring schedule (7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) through May 22, the effect of budget cuts will really be seen as of May 23, when locks typically extend hours for the summer season. This summer, most locks will only be operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Only five have retained the typical summer hours, which are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. May 23 through Sept. 11. These include locks in Baldwinsville (24), Brewerton (23), Seneca Falls (CS-2/3) and Waterloo (CS-4).

“It looks like Baldwinsville, at this point, won’t see a reduction because it is one of the busiest locks,” Kotzin said.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t have an economic impact on the village. Even though Baldwinsville isn’t seeing a cutback in hours, surrounding locks are including the eight locks along the Oswego Canal, which includes one in Phoenix, one in Minetto and three in both Fulton and Oswego. According to officials, there are no lock operators on the entire Oswego Canal – each lock has only the lock chief covering operations. With the restricted hours, boaters coming from the Oswego Canal will have to make their return trip home four hours earlier.

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