The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 5 Jan 1903

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Capt. Thomas Donnelly's Opinion of Proposed Changes.

Major T.W. Symons, of the United States corps of engineers, who has charge of the government work done on the harbors at the different United States ports on Lake Ontario, has called a meeting to be held in the mayor's office in Rochester, at noon on Thursday, the 15th of January, to discuss from a marine standpoint the narrowing of the entrance to the harbor at Charlotte, N.Y., and requesting that all those who are interested should attend, or, if unable to be present, to communicate with him at Buffalo by letter.

The recommendation is as follows: That on account of the harbor of Charlotte requiring $3,700 to be spent on it yearly to remove by dredging the sediment that comes down the river and is deposited in the channel, that a mattress be laid lengthwise of the channel between the piers (150 feet from the east pier) to be sunk with stone, the mattress and stone to be of such thickness as to leave the top of the stone not higher than seven feet below extreme low water. The laying of the mattresses should be carried on at the same time that the dredging of the channel takes place, and the dredged material should be placed between the mattress and the west pier.

The object of this mattress or crib is to increase the current at the mouth of the piers and thereby carry the sediment of the river far into the lake.

As this is a matter of great importance to the ship owners and captains that trade to the port they should not neglect the opportunity offered them to express their opinion either in person at the meeting or by letter. Below is a copy of a letter sent by Capt. Thomas Donnelly to Major Symons, giving his views fully on the subject.

"Dear Sir,- With reference to the improvements of Charlotte Harbor (Port of Rochester), I understand that you have recommended to your government, as a means of improving this harbor, the placing in position of a mattress for the purpose of diverting the current in the Genesee river, hoping thereby to assist in keeping the harbor at the proper depth. It is not the writer's intention to pass any opinion on the matter in question from an engineering standpoint, or as to whether this is the best method for the improvement of this harbor, but I wish to give you a few reasons why, from a mariner's standpoint, I do not think it advisable to interfere with the harbor in the manner recommended in your report. The harbor of Charlotte is a harbor of refuge on Lake Ontario, the easiest of access of any of the so-called harbors on this lake, and in fact the only harbor that can be taken with any degree of safety during the heavy gales of wind from any direction between west and east around by the north, the principal reason being that it has a width of 475 feet between the piers and a long stretch and a long stretch of pier protection along which schooners or tugs with tows can check their speed, and bring up, before reaching the bridge that crosses the river. If, according to the proposed plan, the channel in this river is narrowed 150 feet, the harbor will be, in our opinion, almost completely spoiled as a harbor of refuge as the navigable channel will be too narrow for the purpose intended. Then, if according to the proposed plan you provide a rocky shoal, such as this mattress will be, along the west side, you will in our opinion ruin the harbor for tugs with long tows such as use it at present. When the wind is from the west or north-west the tugs have to, even with a short tow line, run close up along the west pier to keep the tow off the east pier, and if this rocky shoal which you intend putting in the harbor prevents the tugs from using 325 feet in width of the present channel this harbor of refuge will be of no use to tugs with tows, and a most dangerous state of affairs will exist for light vessels, a great many of which use this harbor in the coal trade; these last mentioned vessels cannot direct their course as they would wish coming in out of a heavy sea and have to make a landing without the aid of tugs. All of these vessels draw from five to seven feet of water, and as a mariner I can imagine them jumping along on the top of this stone covered mattress causing great injury and loss.

Now take a large sized steamer such as the Kingston or Toronto. These boats make so much leeway in a heavy beam wind that often their bow is almost touching one pier while their stern is dragging the other, and the writer has frequently seen these side-wheel steamers close up to the bridge before they could be straightened up. If you narrow this harbor to 150 feet, it does not seem possible that these large vessels can use this harbor with safety.

The removal of the range lights from this harbor last year was a great detriment to its safe navigation, and our mariners complain very bitterly of the change, with, in our opinion, good reasons. The C.L. & O.N. Co. have already four large steamers on the lakes and three now building for the Montreal-Lake Superior trade. It is the intention of this company to coal all these vessels at Charlotte, but if this harbor is narrowed to 150 feet, in the manner proposed, it will interfere with these ships calling at Charlotte, and in our judgement other boat-lines will consider it necessary to give this port the go-by for similar reasons and the largely increasing trade of this port must suffer. While considering this matter would you allow us to state that we think it a poor policy to allow small boats to occupy one side of this harbor, in the manner that we find exists every season."

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5 Jan 1903
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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pd [more details]
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 5 Jan 1903