Questions & Answers about the Environmental Review of New York State Canal Corporation’s Earthen Embankment Integrity Program
1. What is the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process?
The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires all state and local government agencies to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making. This means the Canal Corporation will assess the environmental significance of a new programmatic approach on how to maintain earthen embankments throughout the Canal System.
2. What is the program?
The Earthen Embankment Integrity Program will describe the rationale and methods the Canal Corporation will use to manage and maintain earthen embankments along the entire 524-mile Canal System. The Canal Corporation is developing an embankment inspection & maintenance guide book, (“guidebook”) which will set forth protocols for safety, inspection, maintenance, community outreach, and environmental considerations of earthen embankment management.
3. Why is the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program important?
Maintenance of the embankments is imperative for protecting people, property and the environment. Good maintenance practices will also serve to maintain the integrity of the Canal System in a cost-effective manner, and provide transparency to and accountability in the Canal Corporation’s decision-making and program implementation.
4. Will the public have an opportunity to review a draft of the embankment inspection & maintenance guidebook?
Yes. The Canal Corporation will release a draft of the guidebook during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) public comment period. Comments by the public and stakeholders will be considered prior to finalizing the guidebook.
5. Is the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program currently being implemented?
No. Prior to the guidebook being finalized and the program being implemented, the Canal Corporation will conduct a comprehensive environmental review pursuant to SEQRA, including the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Canal Corporation will take a hard look at all potentially significant adverse impacts associated with earthen embankment management. The public will have opportunities to participate in the SEQR review. Please refer to the following website for more information on the SEQR process: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6189.html.
6. While the guidebook is being reviewed, what activities may the Canal Corporation undertake on its earthen embankments?
The Canal Corporation is completing the necessary restoration work in those areas that were previously cleared to ensure embankment integrity is maintained. The guidebook is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2020 after completion of the SEQR process. Until then no trees will be removed without an independent environmental review. Routine maintenance such as grass mowing, debris and liter removal, etc. will continue to occur.
7. Will the Canal Corporation remove trees and underbrush on embankments in the future?
The guidebook will provide for a procedural approach as to where trees may be removed. There is a presumption that all trees and underbrush should be removed from the earthen embankments to protect people, property and the environment as safety is the top priority for the Canal Corporation. However, the SEQR process will also look at avoiding, minimizing and mitigating tree removal impacting areas used for recreation, parks, municipal, residential and commercial uses adjacent to the earthen embankments.
8. Will the Earthen Embankment Integrity Program include a public involvement component?
Yes. The guidebook will contain a process for community outreach prior to embankment work involving potential tree clearing near areas used for recreation, parks, municipal, residential or commercial purposes.
9. What will happen after the SEQR process?
The Canal Corporation will conduct earthen embankment maintenance pursuant to the procedures set forth in the guidebook. As noted above, a draft of the guidebook will be made available for public review as part of the SEQR EIS process.
* The Canal Corporation will endeavor to update these FAQs during the environmental review process.