Report of the Joint Legislative Committee on The Barge Canal

Chapter 4 -- Arguments For and Against Transfer to the Federal Government

In its study the committee has sought the identity of all groups and individuals interested in the canal to learn informally their reasons for favoring or opposing a transfer.

The committee feels this procedure will define the issues and limit further research and testimony to questions which must be resolved before it can make final recommendations.

A summary of the views expressed follows:

(1) All interests agreed that the committee must make a detailed and comprehensive survey of the problem before deciding whether to recommend transfer or retention.

(2) All agreed that if a transfer should be made, existing rights for the non-navigational uses discussed above should, as far as possible, be carefully preserved.

(3) Shipping interests reaffirmed their positions that a transfer of the canal was favored for two reasons:

(a) Only by transfer to the Federal involvement can the canal be made a modern waterway. New York is the lone state operating its own inland waterway. In other parts of the country - Illinois, the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, federal operation of water-ways has brought construction of large, modern canals, greatly benefiting the economy of the areas served.

(b) New York, which pays by far the largest share of federal taxes, should receive an equitable share of federal funds spent on waterway development. Presently this share is minimal.

(c) It will save the state approximately $8.5 million annually for maintenance, operation, repair and capital improvements.

Opponents of a transfer cite these reasons for their stand:

(1) It is unfair to competing transportation to subsidize the canal, particularly without tolls.

(2) Federal authorities give top priority to commercial shipping and secondary consideration to non-navigational uses.

(3) It is better to retain control of all canal operations at the state level because state government is closer to the individual citizen.

(4) The saving derived from the transfer would be small in relation to the rights released.

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