NY's Erie Canal Begins its 3rd Century

Another navigation season is open on New York's canal system.  

This year's a little special, though. It's the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Erie Canal in 1817. 

At this morning's opening ceremony in Waterford, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul pointed out that President Thomas Jefferson thought Gov. DeWitt Clinton was crazy for his plans to build a canal from Albany to Buffalo.

"He thought Gov. Clinton had a couple of loose screws. But you know what?" Hochul said.  'We had a governor who thought bigger than most."

The canal was completed in 1825, at a cost of about $7.5 million.  Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton says if the project were to be undertaken today, it would carry with it a price tag of about $6 billion.

"Men, women, and mules built this canal, and that was about it." Stratton said.  "And the most amazing thing about it is that it's still here 200 years later."

Today, the canal carries an enormous economic impact.  $400 million annually in tourism spending, according to Stratton, and the impact from farming, hydropower and mining totals nearly $6.3 billion.

photo:  WGY news

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