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Canal Corp. delays tree removal 

The New York State Canal Corporation will hold off on removing trees from select Erie Canal banks in Brighton, Pittsford, and Perinton, in order to hold two public meetings on the plans.

The hiatus follows a meeting last week between Canal Corporation representatives and Pittsford, Perinton, and Brighton town leaders. The town supervisors announced the delay during a meeting in Pittsford last night.

The moratorium is intended to allow the Canal Corporation to hold two public meetings where residents can voice their concerns directly to the Canal Corporation, according to a post on the Town of Pittsford Facebook page.  Residents and leaders in the three towns want canal officials to either scrap the tree removal plan or drastically scale it back.

The Canal Corporation's initial vegetation removal plan identified 56 sites between the Village of Medina in Orleans County and the Village of Fairport. Canal Corporation officials planned to clear those sites of all trees, a step they've said is necessary to allow for proper inspection of the canal banks and also ensure the banks' integrity.

The agency and its parent, the New York State Power Authority, argue that the embankments are basically dams and need to be managed as such. They were designed to be bare and tree roots can, over time, destabilize them, they said. They say they based the plan on dam engineers' practices as well as guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The selected bank sites between Medina and Brockport have already been cleared.

Pittsford Supervisor Bill Smith said Canal Corporation officials "expressed a willingness to talk about compromise in what they want to do," the Democrat and Chronicle reported. If the agency isn't willing to scrap the plans, it might at least be willing to scale them back, Smith said.

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo wrote a letter to Canal Corporation director Brian Stratton, which she sent and released yesterday, expressing her opposition to the vegetation removal plan. In the letter, she asked the agency to delay the plan until late 2018.

“I thank the State Canal Corporation for making the prudent decision to postpone further work on its vegetation management project to allow for additional opportunities for public input," Dinolfo said in a statement this morning. "The Corporation should be credited for heeding the calls of residents who expressed strong concerns that the project could hurt our local towns and villages that rely on the Canal for economic and recreational opportunities. However, I am today reiterating my request that the Corporation should fully extend the postponement period through late 2018."

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