U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are announcing the introduction of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act, legislation that would extend the canalway’s authorization as a National Heritage Area (NHA) for the next fifteen years, through FY 2037. Currently, Congress reauthorizes NHAs in two-year periods; this 15-year extension would be a long-term solution to preserve one of New York’s most critical economic engines. In addition to extending the reauthorization period for the Erie Canalway Corridor as a National Heritage Area, this bill would raise the funding cap for the Erie Canalway from $16 million to $18 million.
“It is time to open the gates and let long-term federal support flow into the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor so that Upstate New York’s economy can rise. The Erie Canal is a vital economic engine for tourism in Upstate New York, not to mention one of the Empire State’s greatest attractions and most impressive features. This legislation will ensure the legacy of the Erie Canal’s beauty remains intact and continues to inspire the next generation,” said Senator Schumer. “The history of the Erie Canal is not just the history of New York, but of America and the rise of our great nation. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I am proud to be leading the charge in ensuring the Erie Canal gets the funding it needs to continue to lift communities from Buffalo to Albany.”
“The Erie Canal is one of our nation’s richest treasures and spans across the great state of New York. The legacy of the canal helps drive millions of dollars and is a critical economic engine for Upstate New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “From Buffalo, through Wayne County and up to Lake Champlain, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has helped sustain strong communities with miles of adventure and endless recreation for the millions of New Yorkers who call the Corridor home. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide a long-term fix for the Erie Canalway’s reauthorization and funding cap. As a native of Upstate New York, I have always fought to preserve the canal’s natural resources and history and will continue serving as a champion in the Senate to conserve its beauty for generations to come.”
“For nearly two centuries, our Erie Canalway has been a key part of our region’s history and heritage as well as a vital economic resource, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to Upstate New York each year,” Congressman Tonko said. “I’ve fought for years to reauthorize and maintain the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and its Commission that help sustain our Capital Region communities. I was proud to see a provision I pushed for that extends the Commission for 15 years signed into law as part of this month’s landmark funding package. Now, I am committed to continue working for the long-term reauthorization of the Heritage Corridor, and I am so grateful to have Senators Schumer and Gillibrand as long-time partners in this vital effort.”
“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, along with Congressman Tonko, have long recognized the value of investing in canal communities’ heritage and recreational opportunities as important economic drivers for upstate New York,” said Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Bob Radliff. “With their critical support, Erie Canalway will continue to preserve, foster and showcase this legendary place for millions of Corridor residents and visitors from all over the world.”
The Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor consists of the 57 canalway locks, spanning 524 miles and connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River. It was designated a National Heritage Area (NHA) by Congress in 2000, granting the waterway a federally appointed Canalway Commission tasked with ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved. The corridor spans upstate New York from Buffalo to Albany and along the Champlain Canal to Whitehall. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors boat, bike, and walk along the corridor, supporting tourism, businesses, and job creation across the state. Gillibrand and Schumer successfully fought for reauthorization of the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor’s funding in 2009.
The senators have a long history of fighting for this important New York NHA. Congress has imposed cumulative funding caps on the amount of funding NHAs can receive over their lifetime, but also has the authority to increase the caps. In 2019, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko successfully increased the funding cap for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to $14 million. The FY 2022 omnibus funding package included an increase for the Erie Canalway to $16 million; however, as Congress figures out a long-term reauthorization solution, the senators want to ensure the Corridor is adequately funded should it reach its funding cap during that time frame.
The FY 2022 omnibus also reauthorized the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission through FY 2037, so this bill would align the Corridor’s reauthorization time frame with the Commission’s. Senator Gillibrand previously introduced bicameral legislation with Congressman Tonko to extend the Commission’s reauthorization.