The Army Corps of Engineers reports the annual placement of 22 spans that comprise the Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom began Monday.
Each winter since 1964, the Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom has been installed near the outlet of Lake Erie off Buffalo to reduce the amount of ice entering the Niagara River. As a result of the boom, ice jams in the river and damage to shoreline property have been minimized while water flow for hydroelectric power production has been maintained.
Under the International Joint Commission's 1999 Supplementary Order of Approval, placement of the spans may begin when the Lake Erie water temperature at Buffalo reaches 39 degrees Fahrenheit or on Dec. 16, whichever comes first. The Lake Erie water temperature was 39 degrees Friday, Dec. 5.
Use of the ice boom is authorized by the IJC. The New York Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation share ownership, as well as the cost of operating and maintaining the boom, equally. Installation, operation and removal of the boom is done by NYPA and monitored on behalf of the IJC by its International Niagara Board of Control.
The 1.7-mile-long boom is installed at the outlet of Lake Erie, at the entrance to the Niagara River, to strengthen the natural ice arch that forms almost every year. The ice boom has substantially reduced the severity, number and duration of ice runs from Lake Erie into the Niagara River.
Severe storms with westerly winds may overcome the stability of the ice arch and force large masses of ice against the boom. The boom is designed so that, when this occurs, it submerges and allows the ice to override it until the pressure is relieved. Once the storm subsides, the boom resurfaces and restrains ice that otherwise would flow down the river. The ice boom does not inhibit the flow of water out of the lake into the Niagara River.
The IJC's International Niagara Board of Control will monitor the operation of the boom and ice conditions throughout the winter. (photo courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers)