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Thruway Authority confirms layoffs, Erie Canal users raise concerns about impact

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Douglas Farley, Director, Erie Canal Discovery Center

Tom Grasso, President, Canal Society of New York State; Vice President, Inland Waterways International

The New York Thruway Authority's decision to layoff 234 staff as part of a strategy to address its financial predicament includes the loss of 42 canal workers who maintain 57 locks along the 524-mile length of the Erie Canal that connects the Hudson River to Lake Erie in the west. 

The Thruway Authority confirmed on Wednesday that it will go ahead with plans to cut back its workforce by around 8 percent. Employees affected by the cuts will receive official notice on Thursday,according to the timesunion.

Users of the canal have raised concerns that the loss of lock workers on the canal system will impact on this historic piece of the state's infrastructure. 

The Erie Canalway is a designated National Heritage Corridor, a heritage feature managed by state or non-profits with some input from the National Parks Service, and the Erie Canal was the focus of a 2006 Preservation and Management Plan. Thirteen so-called "canal communities" received $1.3 million dollars in the second round of Regional Economic Development Council grants last December.

In comments reported by the Innovation Trail in 2011, former Schenectady mayor and director of the New York State Canal Corporation Brian Stratton, called the Erie Canal an "economic lifeline."

The canal has also been thesite for various redevelopments, as central and upstate New York cities re-evaluate the value of waterways and waterfronts.

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