Tag Archives: Albany

Erie warning: stuck with a sheugh

New York is a place in the Americas. There is a town of that name and there is also a state, whose economic development in the nineteenth century was assisted by the development of a canal, about which you can learn more on this excellent site. There is a trail along the canal that can be walked or cycled.

The canal is run by the New York State Canal Corporation, which is a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority [a thruway is, it seems, a sort of road]. The canal loses money (naturally). The Thruway Authority sought to increase tolls; the State Controller said it should save money and improve management instead. Inter alia, it should

Commission an independent analysis of the Canal System to examine ways to streamline operations, seek new funding streams, and develop a realistically attainable vision for its future role in the upstate economy.

In his full report [Assessment of the Thruway Authority’s  Finances and Proposed Toll Increase [PDF] Office of the New York State Controller August 2012], the Controller said that

[…] the New York State Constitution forbids the Legislature to sell, abandon or otherwise dispose of the canals […]

but that

[…] choices regarding operational control and financial support for the Canal System are policy matters to be determined by the Governor and the Legislature.

His summary said that

Additional factors in the Thruway Authority‟s current weakened condition include the Authority‟s responsibility for financing and operating the State‟s Canal System as a result of legislation enacted two decades ago. The Canal System has consumed more than $1.1 billion of Thruway resources in the ensuing period. Contrary to the original legislative intent, responsibility for supporting the canals has diminished the Authority‟s ability to pursue its core mission. Moving the Canal System into the Thruway Authority was intended, in part, to stimulate tourism and economic development along the historic
canal corridors. This goal, too, has been elusive; boating activity on the canal has  declined substantially under Thruway control.

Later in the report he said

Second, the Authority‟s financial resources and organizational expertise, along with the then-newly created Canal Recreationway Commission, would position the underused Canal System to improve its facilities and marketing such that new users would be attracted from around the country, and even around the world.

Neither of these hoped-for outcomes has occurred. The Thruway Authority has invested more than $1.1 billion in the Canal System, and this drain of toll resources has also contributed to the deterioration of the Authority’s financial condition over the past decade. Meanwhile, despite major investments and new amenities, pleasure-craft activity on the Canal System in recent years is down by nearly one-third since the period immediately before the Thruway Authority assumed control.

The local media seem to take a somewhat more informed interest in their sheugh than do those in these parts:

Ireland and the United Kingdon could avoid finding themselves in these difficulties by refusing to recreate any more sheughs.