What a difference an inch makes when it come to the water level of Seneca Lake.
For owners of big boats like Bill Mulvey of Geneva, that inch determines whether his boat and other large vessels can get under the bridges that span the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.
Mulvey said if high water means pleasure boaters on Seneca Lake can’t fit under the two bridges at the mouth of the canal and bridges in Waterloo and Seneca Falls farther east, the area could see an economic loss from those visitors.
Removing the old bridges at the mouth of the canal is not an option, Mulvey said. One is a railroad bridge and the other is an abandoned railroad bridge now part of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal Trail.
Mulvey says Seneca Lake is unique among the Finger Lakes in that it is connected to a canal system that allows them to boat all the way to Lake Ontario and even the Atlantic Ocean and New York, stopping to spend money at canal communities along the way.
“There was no problem for about 25 years. The lake was low enough to allow big boats to get under the bridges,” Mulvey said, “but in the past three years, the level has crept up and that bridge clearance margin has gotten less and less. These boats need 15 to 16 feet of clearance.
“It often comes down to an inch.”