Gov. Cuomo has proposed legislation to transfer the operation of the Erie Canal System from the NYS Thruway Authority to the NYS Power Authority.
His vision to create the energy highway of the future sounds remarkably similar to that of Gov. Dewitt Clintons vision for the construction of the Erie canal almost two hundred years ago. The fact that the New York States Canal system has been in continuous operation from 1825 until today, longer than any other constructed transportation system on the continent has always shown New York States commitment to the system and continued operation into the future.
The Canal system has been under the control of the NYS Thruway Authority for more than 20 years and throughout that period of time has never used any tax payer funding. This proposed move to the NYS Power Authority allows for ongoing funding without any tax payer dollars.
The NY Power Authority is one of the most innovative agencies working in the State. With its mission statement having been the same since its creation by Franklin Roosevelt back in 1931 to provide low cost power, environmental awareness, economic development and reliability, is much the same as the Erie Canal's mission back in 1817 when construction was started.
As you may know the NY Power Authority is a large producer of electricity through the use of Hydro Electric power, not only on the St. Lawrence but they currently operate 3 hydro-electric plants on the Erie. The hope is that they will begin to develop the balance of the 27 other hydroelectric plants that are currently built along the Canal System. The Erie's Hydroelectric plants make up 9% of the states total hydroelectric capacity and produce 2.3% of the total hydroelectric power produced throughout the state. With the future of electric generation being built today focused on micro-grids, the potential of the 27 hydroelectric plants on the Canal create the potential for a much greater benefit.
This partnership will allow NYPA to invest in more low-cost hydropower for the benefit of all New Yorkers. There is the potential for both NYPA and the Canal Corporation to grow the non-tourism economic impact of the Canal for its communities and that with NYPA's investment, the 6.3 billion dollar impact the Canal System already provides for the residents of NYS will prove to be only a fraction of the potential.
We believe that this proposed merger would allow the Canal Corporation to identify new opportunities that can maximize the economic benefits of the Canal System in upstate New York as well as allow them to continue their primary mission which is to operate, maintain and improve the Canal and Canalway trail, and most importantly, ensure that all 524 navigable miles of the Canal System are open, well maintained, safe and operational for commercial and recreational vessels.
As New York State prepares its budget for the coming year, all the residents and tax payers within NYS should be supporting this plan as it moves through the both the energy and ways and means committees.