Elizabeth Agte said her plight started off simply enough last November: stop the Canal Corporation from clear cutting trees along the Erie Canal near her home in Perinton.
“It’s something environmentally beautiful, loved by all of the people who use it and live alongside it,” she said.
The agency had already begun clearing in Spencerport and was quickly making its way to her neck of the woods. So she and other homeowners got to work.
“We started writing letters and contacting local officials,” Agte said.
But it got complicated, quickly.
The Canal Corporation insisted the trees had to come down, so they didn’t erode the embankment. But many asked why an environmental review hadn’t been done.
Supervisor Bill Smith with the town of Pittsford was one of them.
So he, in conjunction with the towns of Brighton and Perinton, eventually filed a lawsuit to halt the clear cutting until that review was complete.
And Thursday, a judge ruled in their favor. The Canal Corporation will now have to conduct a study.
“If a study determined certain tree cutting was necessary, having gone through an environmental review, that would give members of the public confidence that this was approached correctly,” Smith explained.
The Canal Corporation could still appeal the judge’s decision.
“I think it would be easier for them to do the environmental impact study so that they can get on with the project. The impact study gives us the opportunity to participate as a public,” Agte said.
In a statement, the Canal Corporation said:
“Our top priority has always been the safety and security of those who use the Erie Canal and those who live and work nearby. We are disappointed by the court’s decision and will review our options. The Canal Corporation hopes to still perform necessary maintenance on the embankment in time for the start of the 2018 navigation season in May.”