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Great Lakes Article:

Commission created to enhance state canalways

News Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON - Interior Secretary Gale Norton has launched a federal commission to enhance business and tourism along the state's historic canals stretching from Buffalo to Albany, into the Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario.

One of Norton's appointees to the 27-member panel is Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra. Deputy County Executive Bruce Fisher said last week that Giambra hopes the commission can highlight Buffalo's commercial slip, and its role as the western terminus of the Erie Canal, as an "attraction for families, tourists and boaters."

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former senator from New York, and Andrew Cuomo, former federal housing secretary, were early supporters of the commission idea.

But it took a bill by Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Syracuse, an influential appropriations subcommittee chairman, to put it into business.

Under Walsh's bill, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor will get $1 million per year for 10 years to spend on business and cultural projects. This includes the state Barge Canal and the Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain canals.

"The commission provides an extraordinary opportunity to build a network of partners dedicated to raising the awareness of the importance of the past, president and future of the Erie Canalway," Norton said.

Another Norton appointee is Marie Rust, Northeast regional director of the National Park Service. Her goals, she said, are "historic preservation, open space preservation and trail development within the corridor."

Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, who co-sponsored Walsh's bill, named Anthony Colucci Jr., an attorney and cultural leader, to the panel. Quinn called Colucci "bright, committed and professional."

Colucci said he wants the commission to help with enhancements of the park facilities in the Tonawandas, with anchorages and navigation aids.

Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, nominated former Tonawanda Mayor Alice A. Roth to the commission.

All its members will serve without pay.

Mike Caldwell, a spokesman for the National Park Service, of which the Canalway will become an integral part, said this one - extending 524 miles - may be the largest of 20 in the nation.

"The idea is to broker partnerships with state and local governments, and the private sector" that will enhance the historical and cultural potential of important sites along the route, Caldwell said.

"The important thing now is to get the commission members to physically meet soon and lay out their plans," Caldwell said.

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