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Plan to remove trees along canal delayed 

The New York State Canal Corporation is pausing its plan to remove large numbers of trees from the banks of the Erie Canal  west of Fairport.

Earlier this year, the Canal Corporation began a preventive maintenance project that involved removing trees from 56 sites between the Village of Medina in Orleans County and the Village of Fairport. It had already done clear-cutting work from Medina through Brockport when it was sued by Brighton, Pittsford, and Perinton over the plans.  In March, a judge ordered the Canal Corporation to perform an environmental review.

The project has been in stasis since then. Yesterday, the Democrat and Chronicle reported that the agency isn't contesting the decision and is, instead, conducting an environmental review of the tree cutting program across the entire canal system. It's not clear how long the review will take.

But the review doesn't mean the Canal Corporation is abandoning the plan; a spokesperson for the agency told the D&C that officials expect the review will support their project.

The Canal Corporation argues that the Erie Canal embankments in question were designed to be free of deep-rooted vegetation such as trees. The roots can loosen soil as they grow and destabilize the banks, officials argued. Water can also leak into the embankments through root channels, they say.  The embankment is basically a dam, and the tree removals would be consistent with Federal Emergency Management Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers dam management guidelines.

Opponents have argued that the project is unnecessary, that the trees being removed are environmentally and aesthetically beneficial, and that the project could affect the value of homes along the canal, since it would change the view from the private properties.

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