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Increase in barges coming through Oswego causes unanticipated problems

A dispute is brewing in Oswego over who should get to use some docking space right in the center of town.

George Broadwell owns two hotels, a restaurant and a convention center along the east side of the Oswego River.

Last year, he says he complained to city and state officials about the number of tugs and barges mooring along the river in front of his establishments. Earlier this year, even more tug boats and barges were mooring along the 600 feet of space in front of his property.

Broadwell says soot, smoke and smells from the barges and tugs irritate customers and could eventually cost him business in the long run.

"This is just not the place for it anymore," Broadwell said. "It's all got to go."

The businessman says the area should be more inviting to recreation seekers, and that he has invested millions into making his portion of waterfront inviting to out-of-towners.

"Our people have to work harder and do more to persuade people to stay here, instead of Syracuse," Broadwell said.

But the stretch of mooring area in contention is owned by the Canal Corporation. And for the shipping industry, more soot and smoke also means more business. According to Shane Mahar, with the New York State Thruway and Canal Corporation, the canal is seeing more commercial shipping than it has in twenty years.

Credit Gino Geruntino/WRVO
A view of the contested portion of mooring space along the Oswego River.

Mahar says the contested area where the wall is was built in the early 1900s. But when Broadwell's hotels were built, commercial traffic had been on the decline for the several decades. Recent shipping spikes have led to an increase in traffic, including corn barges that are now making trips to the Sunoco ethanol plant in Volney.

He also says the agency "wants to be a good neighbor," and is sensitive to Broadwell's concerns. Since receiving the complaints, the Canal Corporation has been working with New York State Marine Highway, who owns the tugs and barges, to tie up in the area less often. They are also using other parts of the canal to refuel.

The Canal Corporation has also arranged for the area to be free of tug boats and barges during Oswego's city events, like Harborfest.

Broadwell says while there are fewer tugs mooring in front of his hotels, he will continue to push for the space to be used for recreational boats only.