Lake Erie - Niagara River Ice Boom Installation 2020
Installation of the ice boom for the 2020-2021 ice season is planned to begin as early as December 10, 2020 weather permitting.
Each winter since 1964, the Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom has been installed near the outlet of Lake Erie to reduce the amount of ice entering the Niagara River. A reduction in ice entering the river reduces the potential for ice jams, which can result in damage to shoreline property and significantly reduce water flow for hydroelectric power production.
For the 2020-21 ice season only, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) requested an early date for the start of installation of the boom. Extra installation time reduces the likelihood of the need for dangerous, late-season installation, while providing time for implementation of any required safe COVID-19 working procedures. After consultation with the public, the International Niagara Board of Control (INBC) recommended that an earlier than usual start date would aid in ensuring that installation of the boom may be completed in a timely and safe manner, and so is in the public interest. The International Joint Commission (IJC) approved the ice boom installation for this ice season as early as November 30, 2020. NYPA expects the placement of the 22 spans of the Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom to start, as early as December 10. For the 2021-22 ice season the conditions of the IJC’s 1999 Supplementary Order of Approval will once again apply, which state the placement of the spans may begin when the Lake Erie water temperature at Buffalo reaches 4ºC (39ºF) or on December 16, whichever comes first.
The NYPA and OPG are authorized to use the boom by the IJC within its mandate, through an Order of Approval. The INBC administers the Order on behalf of the IJC. The NYPA and OPG must ensure that the conditions of the Order of Approval are met in installation, operation, and removal of the boom. Ownership as well as the cost of operating and maintaining the boom is shared equally by NYPA and OPG, while NYPA is responsible for installing, operating, and removing the boom. NYPA and OPG are also responsible for meeting any other United States or Canadian laws that may pertain to the use of the boom.
The 2.7-kilometre (1.7-mile) long boom is installed at the outlet of Lake Erie, at the entrance to the Niagara River, to promote the formation and strengthening of a naturally occurring ice arch that reduces the amount of ice entering the Niagara River. 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 which 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 International Joint Commission’s International Niagara Board of Control will monitor NYPA’s and OPG’s operation of the boom and ice conditions throughout the winter.
For more information on installation, operation and removal of the Ice Boom contact Louis Paonessa, NYPA at (716) 286-6651 or Louis.Paonessa@nypa.gov
For more information regarding the IJC approval see the Board’s Ice Boom Information website
In USA contact Andy Kornacki, PAO to the International Niagara Board of Control at (716) 879-4349 or Andrew.A.Kornacki@usace.army.mil
In Canada contact Derrick Beach, Canadian Secretary, International Niagara Board of Control at (905) 336-4714 or Derrick.Beach@canada.ca