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State relents on controversial Erie Canal tree-cutting plan, for now

The state agencies behind the controversial clear-cutting of trees along sections of the Erie Canal will not appeal a temporary restraining order that halted the effort, a spokesman for the agencies said Wednesday.

Instead, the spokesman for the New York Power Authority and the New York State Canal Corp. said, the agencies will conduct a “comprehensive environmental review of the (tree-cutting) program across the entire canal system” before seeking to restart the work.

About 145 acres in 56 locations along the canal from Medina to Pittsford were to be deforested in what the state described as overdue preventative maintenance aimed at stabilizing the structural integrity of elevated embankments on the waterway. The project was anticipated to cost $2.6 million.

“The public will have the opportunity to provide input during this process,” NYPA spokesman Steven Gosset said in a prepared statement. “We are confident this environmental review will confirm our position that removing vegetation from the embankment is both an appropriate and prudent step to ensure the safety of those who live and work on or near the canals.”

The announcement was an incremental victory for the leaders of three Monroe County towns — Brighton, Perinton and Pittsford — who had sued to temporarily delay the project on grounds that the state improperly classified the work to avoid a more thorough environmental review than would have been required by law.

The towns sprang to action after news reports about the scarcely publicized project, which had quietly begun in Orleans County last fall and extended past Brockport before it was forced to stop, lurched eastward and spurred angry protests from constituents, nearly all of whom had little or no idea of the effort.

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