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Protest targets Canal Corp tree removal plan


A citizens group will rally Sunday against a New York State Canal Corporation plan to remove trees from sections of Erie Canal embankment in Pittsford and Perinton.

Stop the Clear Cut's rally will be held at noon across from the Ayrault Road boat launch in Perinton. Speakers will include Pittsford Supervisor Bill Smith, Perinton Supervisor Mike Barker, former Brighton Supervisor Sandy Frankel, a local homeowner, and a Sierra Club representative, according to organizers.

The Canal Corp. plans to remove trees from 56 sites between the Village of Medina — west of Rochester in Orleans County — and the Village of Fairport. The agency argues that the roots of trees can undermine embankment walls and cause them to fail. It says the decision isn't based on any immediate problem or threat, but rather on dam engineers' practices as well as guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

But residents and town officials aren't buying the argument. They see the work as costly and unnecessary, and point to relatively recent Army Corps of Engineers publications that says tree removal may not always be the best solution for ensuring bank integrity, especially when roots are left to rot; they can loosen soil and create pathways for water to seep in.

The officials and residents are also worried about the effects that the tree removal may have on views from the canal trail and from homes, as well as associated property value losses.

Residents and town officials want the Canal Corp. and its parent agency, the New York State Power Authority, to halt the project and have discussions about whether there might be a less drastic, less destructive solution. Smith, the Pittsford supervisor, says the Canal Corp has already committed to meeting with him, Perinton Supervisor Barker, and Village of Fairport Mayor Fritz May.