Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced that Congress has approved reauthorization of the Erie Canal as a National Heritage Corridor. Through this legislation, the federal designation, which was set to expire in 2015, will be renewed through 2021. The bill passed the House of Representatives on December 4th and passed the Senate on December 12th.
“The Canalway Corridor is one of New York and the nation’s great treasures,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The reauthorization of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor will help the region’s tourism industry continue to grow as visitors from all over come to learn about our state’s great history.”
“Proximity to the Erie Canal is uniquely ours and holding this piece of history provides great opportunities for the communities that share this national treasure,” said Congressman Higgins. “Renewal of the federal commitment to promote and preserve the Erie Canalway provides great economic returns and reaffirms the significance of this unique asset.”
The measure, included the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, was introduced by Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Higgins, and Congressman Chris Gibson earlier this year as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act (HR 4641).
The Erie Canal was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000. Under this designation, a federally appointed Canalway Commission, in conjunction with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Interior, is tasked with promoting the Corridor as a tourism destination and ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved.
First opened 189 years ago, the Erie Canal was quickly recognized as a defining public works and civil engineering achievement. By connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, the canal facilitated the movement of people and goods in a way that had previously been restricted by the difficult conditions of overland routes.
Today the Erie Canal continues its role as an economic driver, supporting the transport of close to 100,000 tons of cargo and serving as one of New York’s largest tourism magnets, providing recreational opportunities, events, and telling the story of the Canal’s role in the Underground Railroad.
The Corridor covers 4,834 square miles across 23 counties, extending from Tonawanda to Whitehall at the bottom of Lake Champlain, and includes Buffalo, Rochester and the Finger Lakes, Oswego, Syracuse, Albany, Saratoga National Historic Park, and Glens Falls. For more information about what there is to see and do along the Erie Canal, visit www.eriecanalway.org.