Lawsuit calls for immediate halt to tree cutting along Erie Canal

Clear cutting along the Erie Canal in Brockport. Three Monroe County towns have file suit to immediately stop the Canal Corp from finishing the job.

(WHAM) - The towns of Pittsford, Brighton and Perinton are suing to stop the clearing of trees along the Erie Canal. A lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court February 5 - just weeks after both sides had agreed to a compromise.

"They were literally going to clear-cut 155 acres of land. They were proposing to do this without any real environmental oversight," Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle told 13WHAM's Jane Flasch.

The Canal Corporation says roots of mature trees are threatening the structure of the canal's cement walls. Clear cutting is taking out every tree in a direct path. It has already been completed in Orleans County and Brockport in Monroe County.

After Rochester's east side towns came together in protest, it appeared a compromise had been reached. Both sides signed an agreement to slow down, consider selective cutting and make sure all actions moving forward were subject to New York's environmental review laws.

"It's the start of a conversation and it's more work, but it's a good compromise," Kimberly Harriman of the Power Authority said in January.

Within three weeks, the agreement had fallen apart. "None of the conversations went in that direction. It was simply trying to convince us that they absolutely, positively had to clear cut," said Pittsford Supervisor Bill Smith.

In a statement the NYS Canal Corporation said, "Safety is our top priority and -- as we previously said – we’ll work with residents and stakeholders on the best way to address repairing this embankment with as little disruption as possible. But let's be clear, doing nothing is no option. If this embankment fails, damage to nearby homes, businesses and even a local elementary school could be catastrophic. We don't comment on pending litigation, but believe that any unnecessary delays in this process would not be helpful."

"There has been no presentation - no allegation - that there is an emergency situation," said Supervisor Moehle. "Come up with a plan that would balance safety and environmental concerns."

The towns are calling for an immediate restraining order to prevent any more cutting until the lawsuit can be heard.

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