Gov. Andrew Cuomo is launching an effort to improve the New York State Canal System by holding a competition that will award up to $2.5 million to entrants who come up with the best ideas.

The Democrat made the announcement Monday as the World Canals Conference got underway in Syracuse.

Cuomo says the contest will be a global competition to find the best ways to re-imagine the 524-mile canal system whose main component is the Erie Canal. He says the state is looking for "bold and innovative ideas" that will boost the development and tourism potential of the waterway and neighboring communities.

The competition will be run by the New York Power Authority and state Canal Corp., and winners will be announced next spring.

Construction of the Erie Canal began in Rome, New York, on July 4, 1817.