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Judge orders environmental review of canal plan 

A state judge has ordered the New York State Canal Corporation to go back and complete a thorough environmental review before it removes any trees from canal banks in Brighton, Pittsford, and Perinton.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Daniel Barrett issued his ruling yesterday in a lawsuit brought by the three towns. The governments sued the Canal Corp over its plan to remove trees from several areas of canal embankment in those towns.

The Canal Corp plan calls for removing trees from 56 sites between the Village of Medina in Orleans County and the Village of Fairport. Clear cutting has already occurred between Medina and Spencerport. Barrett's ruling is specific to the three towns that sued. He agreed with their argument that the project crossed regulatory thresholds requiring a detailed environmental review, in part because of the amount of land it'd involve and because it would change the character of the targeted areas.

Canal Corp representatives argue that the embankments were designed to be free of deep-rooted vegetation. Tree roots can destabilize the banks by loosening soil as the trees grow, and water can leak in through the root channels, they say.  And they argue that the project is consistent with guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Once the trees are cut down, the Canal Corp plans to remove the stumps and plant more appropriate vegetation, specifically grasses.


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